Dr. Phelan By General Practitioner Published:

Eczema, more common than you think

If you suffer with eczema, you’re far from alone. An estimated six million Brits have the skin condition, and according to the NHS the number of reported cases has risen by 40 percent in the last four years. Whether you were born with it, or you developed eczema later in life, it can be extremely painful and embarrassing for some sufferers.

Eczema is red, flaky and itchy skin, which will often crack and weep. The most common type is atopic eczema (caused by allergies) but people may suffer from many other types such as contact eczema, discoid eczema, or seborrheic eczema. Atopic eczema is in your genes, and often goes hand-in-hand with hay fever and asthma.

Here are some top tips to manage your eczema:

Don’t scratch

Scratching may bring temporary relief to the itch, but it actually triggers the release of a chemical called histamine which just causes more itching. Scratching damages the skin and may allow bacteria that normally lives on the surface to get in and cause infection. Keep nails short, and whenever you get the urge to have a scratch, massage the itchy area with moisturiser using the pads of your fingertips.

Slather on the cream

The best way to treat eczema is through moisturising.  Cover your body with moisturiser morning and night, and keep a pot in your bag to top up during the day. Your doctor or online pharmacist can prescribe different emollients, to suit your needs. Apply after a shower when the skin’s still damp to help trap in moisture.

Visit the doctor

For cases of severe eczema, your GP may refer you to a dermatologist who can prescribe a steroid cream such as hydrocortisone, special bandages and wet wraps, or even ultraviolet light therapy. Although steroids may have nasty side-effects if used long term, a short course is perfectly safe. Pharmacy2U can offer free, convenient delivery of prescription medication, taking off some of the strain when you and your family might appreciate it most.

Watch your triggers

Know thine enemy – cow’s milk is a well-known culprit, but other common problem foods include eggs, soya and wheat. You can try a food elimination diet, which involves cutting out common trigger foods for a period of time and then gradually reintroducing them to see if they cause a flare-up.