Eczema is tough to handle in any season, but summers in the south can be especially difficult. And how do you know whether it’s just a bout of dry skin or it’s an actual eczema diagnosis? Here’s how to identify and manage your eczema this summer.
While there are a few medical differences between dermatitis and eczema, the two terms can generally be used interchangeably. Essentially, eczema (or dermatitis) is any condition resulting in inflammation of the skin. Eczema typically presents as a red, pink, or brownish raised rash. It is usually accompanied by itching. Eczema can be found anywhere on the body, but it is commonly found on the scalp, eyelids, hands, feet, ankles, wrists, upper chest, and inside the crook of the elbows or knees.
One key indicator that differentiates eczema from dry skin is that moisturizers do not make eczema disappear. While the hydration that comes from lotions and moisturizers can help alleviate eczema symptoms to some extent, ultimately the issue in dermatitis cases isn’t just a matter of dry skin -- hence why a different type of treatment is needed.
Eczema, and any type of inflammatory condition, can be caused by a host of factors. Irritants in soaps, cleaning chemicals, or detergents can cause eczema to flare up. Irritating materials like wool, polyester, or nylon can cause eczema to break out. Living in regions with low humidity levels, excess pollen, or exposure to intense heat can wreak havoc for eczema sufferers. Even things like sweating or emotional stress can cause issues in those who suffer from eczema.
The best treatment for eczema is usually a prescription cream prescribed by a dermatologist. This is because the inflammation that eczema causes typically responds best to a topical corticosteroid cream, which will help with redness, swelling, and itching. However, these creams generally shouldn’t be used in excess over long periods of time, so there are other ways you can manage your eczema.
Ideally, moisturize frequently -- even in the heat of a Southern summer. As you sweat, your body loses hydration, which is just one reason eczema can flare up during warmer months. If you find you’re especially sensitive to pollen, you may need to take an over-the-counter antihistamine. You can track which days have higher pollen counts and see how your skin responds in order to identify whether or not this is a trigger for you.
Light therapy, also called phototherapy, can help reduce symptoms of eczema through exposure to controlled amounts of natural sunlight on the affected areas. Occasionally, in very severe cases, a doctor may need to prescribe an oral corticosteroid such as prednisone.
Try to wear lightweight, breathable clothing when possible, including cottons. Change out of wet bathing suits and sweaty clothes as soon as possible. You might try using a humidifier at night to help keep skin hydrated. Above all, if you do have an eczema flare up, avoid scratching, which can further irritate the skin and potentially cause infection.
Suffering from eczema? If you’re in Baton Rouge or the surrounding areas, contact Louisiana Dermatology Associates today for an appointment with one of our board-certified specialists.