Monday, March 10, 2008

Anti-Eczema, Anti-Allergy

There are few things in life that hurt me more than seeing someone suffer unnecessarily. I feel the strongest urge to tell them how to reduce their suffering and, when I realize they probably won't listen or understand, I feel terribly trapped and sick in my stomach. So this blog posting is for those of you that suffer from eczema and allergies.

I've had eczema and allergies for most of my life. It was very bad when I was little and I hid the rashes from view with long-sleeved clothing. Over the years, I've learned ways to reduce the severity of it, and to keep it under control. Here is what has worked for me:

1. Aveeno Moisturizing Shower and Bath Oil

Some dermatologists recommend reducing how often you bathe or shower, but that doesn't work for me. I like to be clean all the time. I also find that being sweaty or dirty makes me itchy. After sweating my skin will go all red and patchy, and sleeping with sweat (or rain) in my hair will result in an itchy head all night and restless sleep. The only solution is to wash off the irritating sweat (sweat is salty and contains some waste products after all!) This means showering every day for me, sometimes more often. If you work out, run around, are stressed, and if the weather is hot, etc, you will want to take more frequent showers/baths to keep your skin free of irritants.

Unfortunately, if you shower and bathe a lot, your skin gets drier. The solution is Aveeno Moisturing Shower and Bath Oil. You don't have to use it every day, but when your skins starts to feel dry or generally itchy all over (which is usually because it's dry and starting to get flaky), then shower normally, turn off the water, and generously lather Aveeno bath oil all over. You want to massage it into your skin so that it absorbs. Then turn the shower back on and rinse off the excess. Use warm water instead of super hot water so that it doesn't strip the oil all off. Dry yourself off and apply body lotion.

It is also good to switch from any harsh, perfumed soaps to gentle cleansers. I like Aveeno Moisturing Body Wash. You can also use that as a shaving cream.

2. Selsun Blue

When your eczema is really severe, your scalp tends to be affected too. My dermatologist gave me some really stinky tar shampoos to use, but they didn't help. Instead, I just hated the smelly shampoo experience and my hair felt icky afterwards. You'll have to experiment with what works for you, but I was able to get away with using a medicated dandruff shampoo containing selenium sulfide by Selsun Blue meant for dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis (whatever that is).

Selsun Blue still has a strong smell, but it's not nearly as bad as tar. I use Selsun Blue when my head is really itchy. After rinsing the shampoo off, I follow up with a good, moisturing conditioner like Pantene Pro-V. I really like how Pantene detangles your hair and makes it smooth and shiny. I find that it also moisturizes your scalp (since you can't really put cream on your head...). When your scalp isn't itchy, you can switch back to a non-medicated daily-use Selsun Blue or another shampoo brand like Head and Shoulders. Try to avoid anything harsh or with too much perfumes.

3. Body lotion/skin cream

At one point, I never used body lotion. I didn't need it. But after a particularly bad bout of eczema and rashes, my skin became very irritable and dry. This is when it became necessary to use body lotion all of the time after showering. You may like a different brand of cream, but I find that Keri Lotion works the best for me. In particular, I like the Keri Lotion Fast Absorbing, Fragrance-Free version. The fast absorbing version is thinner and thus easier (and faster) to spread evenly over your skin.

UPDATE 12/17/2009 - If you have open cuts/scratches, Keri Lotion might sting. In that case, I highly recommend Aveeno Skin Relief Moisturizing Lotion Fragrance Free. It's actually a tad bit more moisturizing and very comfortable to wear all day. It's not sticky. This is currently my new favourite cream.

There is a cooling/minty version of this cream as well, but I don't like it. I find the cooling sensation to be more of a burning feeling to my overly sensitive skin, but I know that some people find the cooling sensation to be soothing for their hot/irritated skin. So go for the non-minty version if your skin is highly sensitive like mine.

4. Fragrance-free

Skin with eczema is very sensitive. It can't handle a lot of irritants, and perfumes are quite irritating. Switch all of your creams to fragrance-free versions.

5. Keeping clean

Most allergy sufferers are allergic to dust mites and other little things found in dust. You can reduce your allergies and eczema by keeping a cleaner environment. Vacuum your carpets every week or two (using a good quality filter in your vacuum so you're not just spreading dust around), and use a wet cloth to wipe down the dust accumulating on shelves.

I also find that washing pillowcases, bed sheets, and towels weekly helps. The best way to kill the dust mites in your bedding is to wash it in hot water (so you might want to go with lighter coloured sheets). For me, it is okay to use scented laundry detergent because it mostly rinses away (and I really like the smell!). However, I reduce the amount of fabric softener sheets I use in the dryer by cutting the normal sheets into two pieces. My laundry still smells good, but I'm exposed to half the amount on my clothes. If you can do without the lovely laundry scents, you can go with fragrance free. I tried it, but it didn't make a difference in my skin and I missed the fresh laundry smell. So I just chose a softly scented version that had less perfumes in it and used half.

6. Anti-histamines

I once thought anti-histamine pills were bad for me, so I tried not to take them whenever possible. I now feel differently. I now see the value of anti-histamines in preventing allergic reactions and in reducing the severity of an allergic reaction when I get one. Here's the key: if you know you might come into contact with something you're allergic to that day (for instance, the food you're going to eat might have come into contact with something you're mildly allergic to) then eat an anti-histamine beforehand. Or, if you accidentally ate or touched something you're allergic to and you're starting to break out into hives, eat an anti-histamine immediately.

When you have an allergic reaction, your body releases histamine. Histamine is what causes the symptoms of allergic reactions, like rashes, itchiness, swelling, etc. An anti-histamine pill will stop your body from releasing histamine. It won't get rid of the histamine that has already been released (your body will slowly get rid of that itself), but it will stop any more from being released.

Choose an anti-histamine that works fast and lasts long enough for your purposes. I like Reactine Regular Strength because it is the fastest working for me and not too strong (so I can use it regularly). You might want to experiment with a few different brands of anti-histamine because they contain different chemicals and work differently with different people. I avoid ones containing pseudo-ephedrine or sudafed because I get jittery and wired like I drank way too much coffee afterwards. Those kinds are good for stopping a runny nose tho.

7. Cortisone cream (when prescribed by a doctor or dermatologist)

Cortisone cream isn't good for you if you misuse it. Using too much of it has side effects like making your skin thinner. However, it is very good for reducing inflammation of the skin. Whenever you have a rash from eczema, apply a thin amount onto the affected area. Use it according to directions, but be diligent about it. Whenever I have a flare up, I apply it frequently (2-3 time per day) until it goes away. Don't forget to apply your cream. The more you remember, the faster it will go away. If your cortisone cream doesn't work, go to your doctor and get a better one. Some work better than others. Some cortisone creams contain a little bit of numbing agent. This helps you to avoid scratching it and making it worse.

8. Don't scratch it.

I know it's itchy, but don't scratch it. Instead, keep it clean, moisturize it properly, and apply your cortisone cream diligently. Be kind to your skin and it won't complain. Treat it like it has feelings.

9. Drink lots of water and eat healthy.

It helps your skin if you are well-hydrated. So drink lots of water. It is also good to eat a diet that has a lot of variety in it so that you get a range of vitamins and minerals. Fish and nuts are good for your skin if you can eat them. Try not to eat too many deep fried things or to drink to much coffee or pop. A good book to read on foods and a lifestyle that is good for your skin is, "The Perricone Prescription". He's all about eating things that reduce inflammation and promote healthy skin.

10. Sleep

Being allergic is stressful and tiring. Get some sleep. Your body has better defenses and can heal better when you are well rested. When I'm really allergic, I take an anti-histamine that will make me drowsy before I go to sleep. I like Benadryl for that. During the day I'll take a non-drowsy anti-histamine.

11. Avoid allergens

Find out what you're allergic to, and stay away from it. If you don't know what you're allergic to, get an allergy test. You might be surprised at all the things you're actually allergic to. If you can't avoid something you're really allergic to, take anti-histamines to reduce your allergic reactions or find ways to reduce your exposure to it.

I found out from an allergy test that I was super allergic to my rabbit. I tried for a period of time to keep him by vacuuming around him a lot and restricting him to one area of the house. When my allergies continued to get worse, I had to give him away. It took a period of time before all the allergens in my house finally got cleared out. I wish I could have kept my rabbit, but my health was at risk so I had to give him up.

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Well, that's all I can think of for now. I'm not a doctor and I'm not recommending any of this treatment unless you have a doctor's approval. This is what has worked for me so far to keep my allergies and eczema in check and I'm hoping you can benefit from me sharing my experiences.

Cheers!

12 comments:

b.p. said...

If you don't mind just smelling the laundry detergent instead of the dryer/softener sheets, consider trying out the dryer balls (cf: http://www.komotv.com/news/archive/4167746.html).

I use this at home now (in rotation with the remainder of the sheets I have) - it saves me money and it's more natural.

Carla said...

I like all of your tips. I especially like the "lifestyle" tips like keeping clean and don't scratch. When people ask me about eczema, I often just focus on medications and forget to mention all of the other important things they should be doing to manage their eczema. Good post.

Mytutorlist.com said...

Thanks, Carla! I see a lot of eczema and allergy sufferers out there, and I always wish I could help them.

b.p, I don't know if I can do without the nice smell of the softner sheets, but I do like the idea of faster drying times. I'm going to pick up a set of those dryer balls and try them out!

lassothemoon said...

great advice. I have a friend that could use some of your suggestions.
Thanks for sharing!

luccy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Divya said...

very nicely written. I was looking for something for my 8 month old who has eczema and very dry scalp. I've just started using selsun blue (carefully as it is not a "no tear shampoo")followed by california baby leave in hair conditioner and then olive oil. I'll also try the oatmeal treatment.
thanks

Melissa said...

I am so glad to have found this. I have a 4 month old who has been broke out for 2 weeks. We have just been referred to a dermatologist but i need to find relief for her. Her doctor suggested using Selsun Blue on a spot to see if it clears it while we are waiting. Thanks for the tips. I want to do everything i can to keep it from being this bad again

Mytutorlist.com said...

Hi Divya and Melissa,

I hope the Selsun Blue works for your babies! Just remember that a lot of the irritation on skin comes from the irritants on it like sweat and allergens. It can also come from dryness.

So keeping the skin clean is often really helpful for bringing relief. Babies sweat a lot. I remember my baby sister would wake up with a wet head! They also drool a lot. Drool and sweat can be irritating, so rinse those things off skin as soon as you can.

When things get dry, moisturize. Pick a moisturizer that is non-irritating, has no scents, and won't clog pores. Clean and moisturized is a really big helper in keeping my skin from being irritated.

Good luck!

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Ryan said...

Eczema is a skin condition that cause itching, redness, dryness and swelling in your skin. If you have eczema then you know the discomfort of eczema. There are many products and eczema treatment but one can try natural eczema treatment because this does not any type of side effects on your skin like all other expensive and ineffective products and treatments.

Roy D. Slater said...

My mother has had eczema for a long time and it's been really hard on her. she's tried all sorts of different oils and creams. Finally she found a natural eczema treatment that worked for her. She also found that what she ate had a lot do do with how her eczema effected her. Thanks for the suggestions and great work on the blog.

judy said...

I have a one year old baby and his eczema is so bad. His pedia gave him an oral steroid, but my baby haven't tried it yet . Is it really necessary? Isn't my son too young for that?Thanks.

Judy