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Eczema - Self-management

There are things you can do yourself to help ease your symptoms and prevent further problems.

Try to reduce the damage from scratching

Eczema (atopic eczema) is often itchy, and it can be very tempting to scratch the affected areas of skin. But scratching usually damages the skin, which can itself cause more eczema to occur. The skin thickens into leathery areas as a result of chronic scratching.

Deep scratching also causes bleeding. This increases the risk of your skin becoming infected or scarred.

Try to reduce scratching whenever possible. You could try rubbing your skin with your fingers instead.

If your baby has eczema, anti-scratch mittens may stop them scratching their skin.

Keep your nails short and clean. This will minimise damage to the skin from unintentional scratching.

Keep your skin covered with light clothing to reduce damage from habitual scratching.

Avoid triggers

Your GP will work with you to establish what might trigger the eczema flare-ups. Although it may get better or worse for no obvious reason.

Once you know your triggers, you can try to avoid them.

For example:

  • if certain fabrics irritate your skin, avoid wearing these. Stick to soft, fine-weave clothing or natural materials such as cotton
  • if heat aggravates your eczema, keep the rooms in your home cool, especially the bedroom
  • avoid using soaps or detergents that may affect your skin. Use soap substitutes instead

Some people with eczema are allergic to house dust mites. Trying to rid your home of them isn't recommended. It can be difficult and there's no clear evidence that it helps.

Dietary changes

Some foods, such as eggs and cows' milk, can trigger eczema symptoms. But you shouldn't make significant changes to your diet without first speaking to your GP.

It may not be healthy to cut these foods from your diet. Young children especially need the calcium, calories and protein from these foods.

If your GP suspects a food allergy, they may refer you to a dietitian (a specialist in diet and nutrition). They can help to work out a way to avoid the food you're allergic. They'll also make sure you get all the nutrition you need.

Your GP may refer you to a hospital specialist. This could be an immunologist, dermatologist or paediatrician.

If you're breastfeeding a baby with eczema, get medical advice before making any changes to your regular diet.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE.

page last reviewed: 29/01/2019
next review due: 29/01/2022