Q: What causes eczema to flare up, and what helps keep it under control?
A: For most people who get this itchy rash, flare-ups are often triggered by having dry skin, according to Christie Clinic dermatologist Dr. Caitlyn Foote.
Since skin tends to become more dry in the winter — as opposed to the summer, when the air is more humid — eczema tends to be worse in the winter, she said.
But there’s more than climate factors that can aggravate this condition.
Some other triggers are certain infections, cigarette smoke and exposure to certain soaps, fragrances, cleaning products and other chemicals, Foote said.
What most people refer to under the catch-all term eczema is one form of it, atopic dermatitis, a condition that turns skin red and itchy and tends to run in families. Both kids and adults can get it, Foote said.
Most people tend to get eczema rashes in the folds of their skin, such as behind the knees and in the creases of elbows, she said.
One treatment recommended for relief is taking a bleach bath a couple of times a week, Foote said. Use about one-fourth cup of bleach in a half-full bathtub, she advised.
Foote also advises bathing and showering in lukewarm rather than hot water and then always following up by applying an unscented lotion.
To help limit eczema outbreaks, avoid using skin-care products with fragrances and a lot of additives, Foote said. One soap to try is unscented Dove bar soap.
And no need to avoid going swimming. Foote said the chlorine in pools can help remove bacteria from skin that can cause rash break-outs.
Before you treat your eczema, Foote advises first consulting a doctor to confirm that’s actually what’s causing your rash.
“Rashes can have different triggers, and if you’re not sure, get it checked out,” she said.
There are also treatments that can help, with topical steroids usually tried first, she said.