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6 Ways to Treat Eczema

No one should have to suffer through itchy skin.

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Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is no joke. What typically begins as a mysterious—and often unrelenting—sensation of itchiness is one of the most exhausting skin conditions around, in part because its exact cause is still TBD. Once you confirm with your doctor that your or your child’s itchy, irritated skin is, in fact, eczema, here’s how you can start to treat it.

1. Choose products wisely. When you’re dealing with eczema, it pays to be picky. Not just any moisturizer will do for this condition. Instead, choose a thick, rich cream or ointment. Apply it at least twice a day to help keep skin from cracking and getting dry, and make sure it’s fragrance-free. One inexpensive option to try is petroleum jelly, which can protect the affected area without irritating it. Your dermatologist may also be able to offer sample sizes of different creams, so you can try a few and see what works best.

2. Reconsider your laundry routine. Treat your eczema like it’s sensitive skin—especially when it comes to your laundry routine. The gentler, the better: Use a fragrance-free laundry detergent and fabric softener (which can help minimize irritation), don’t use extra detergent, and make sure your clothing has been rinsed well (if your washer has an “extra rinse” option, use it). When you get back from a shopping spree, wash your new clothes before wearing them. It’ll remove any excess dyes or residue on the fabric that can cause irritation.

3. Discuss topical therapies. One of the most commonly prescribed medications for eczema is topical corticosteroids, which can ease the itchiness and inflammation, so your skin can start to heal. Overusing these can cause skin to become thinner, so don’t use them more frequently than your doctor says to, and pairing them with a rich moisturizer is essential.

4. Ask about light therapy. One of the simplest treatments out there, light therapy is essentially exposing your skin to natural sunlight—sans sunscreen, and within reason, of course. It’s generally used as an option if topical treatments don’t work (or your eczema flares quickly after treatment), but one that comes with a major downside: The UV rays that help with eczema can also damage your skin in the long term, increasing your risk of skin cancer and causing skin aging. This is a therapy that shouldn’t be tried without a doctor’s supervision.

5. Consider probiotics. Emerging science suggests certain strains of probiotics may prevent eczema by suppressing the skin’s inflammation response (which is what makes skin so itchy and irritated in the first place). The specifics of probiotic treatment protocol—like the strain, dosage, and timing—are still murky at this point, but a small amount of evidence suggests that certain strains of probiotics may be able to help. Your doctor can help you figure out if it’s a treatment worth trying for your case.

6. Manage your stress. Some people find that their eczema flares up when they are stressed out. While you can’t always avoid stressful situations (hello, finding a preschool for your kid), find stress management techniques that work for you, whether that’s meditation, a hard workout class, or taking a bath.

Get more great health and wellness stories at Parents.com/Strive.