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Atopic Dermatitis: Taking Care of Your Skin

Overview

Atopic dermatitis (also called eczema) is a skin problem that causes intense itching and a red, raised rash. In severe cases, the rash develops clear fluid-filled blisters. The rash is not contagious. You can't catch it from others. People with this condition seem to have very sensitive immune systems that are likely to react to things that cause allergies. The immune system is the body's way of fighting infection.

There is no cure for atopic dermatitis. But you may be able to control it with care at home.

How do you take care of your skin?

Keep your skin hydrated

Gentle skin care can help improve your skin. Regular use of moisturizers can reduce the itching, keep your rash from getting worse, and help it heal. Also, using enough moisturizer may mean that you'll need less medicine.

Here are some tips for keeping your skin hydrated.

  • Find a moisturizer that you like to use.

    Apply it at least twice a day. Thicker creams or ointments, like petroleum jelly, work better than thinner lotions. Moisturizers include Aquaphor, Eucerin, or Purpose. Or you may want to try a skin barrier repair moisturizer, such as CeraVe or TriCeram, that can help with burning, itching, and redness. For severe dryness, try petroleum jelly.

  • Take a shower or bath once a day.

    Use warm water and a mild soap or a cleanser that doesn't contain soap. Afterwards, gently pat your skin dry with a soft towel. While your skin is still moist or even wet, apply moisturizer right away.

    • If you have crusts on your skin, soaking in a warm water bath for 5 to 10 minutes may help. Gently pat your skin dry, and apply moisturizer right away.
    • If your rash is very red and itchy, soak in a warm water bath for 20 minutes. If your doctor prescribed a cream, put it on the rash as soon as you get out of the water, even before drying off. Pat the rest of your body dry and apply moisturizer.

If you still have problems with itch and rash even after you have been using moisturizers, talk to your doctor.

Avoid skin irritants

Avoiding things that irritate your skin will help your skin stay healthy. When you notice that your rash or skin is irritated, see if you can figure out what caused the problem.

Here are some tips for avoiding irritants.

  • Use mild, unscented products.

    Many soaps, lotions, perfumes, laundry detergents, and fabric softeners can irritate your skin.

  • Avoid scratchy clothing or bedding, such as wool and some acrylics.

    Cottons and soft fabrics may be more comfortable.

  • Avoid tags on clothing.

    Buy clothes without tags or remove any tags that bother your skin.

  • Wash new clothing before you wear it.

    Dyes and fabric finishes on new clothes can irritate your skin.

  • Keep your indoor temperature and humidity levels comfortable.

    Sudden changes of temperature can irritate your skin.

  • Choose loose clothing and bedding fabrics that air can flow through easily.

    Excessive sweating can irritate your skin.

  • Avoid exercising in the heat of the day.

    Look for ways to be active indoors, or exercise outdoors when it's not so hot (such as in the early morning).

Credits

Current as of: November 15, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Ellen K. Roh MD - Dermatology

Research Health Topics

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