Everybody gets an itchy skin once in awhile, and for some it is a regular feature of their body. But when you have long-lasting, red, itchy rashes, it could be called an atopic dermatitis.
Better known as eczema, this skin condition is often found in children. But you can have it at any age. The rashes tend to flare, go away, and then come back again.
What then are the Symptoms
Most people will have their first signs of eczema just between 3-5 years old. Some of the symptoms in infants may include having red, crusted, scaly areas on their cheeks, scalp, or the front of their arms and legs.
Both children and adults usually have very itchy, red rashes on the back of the neck and knees and in elbow creases. You may also have small bumps and flaky skin. The rash may also develop on the face, wrists, forearms and other parts of the body.
If you scratch, your skin can get thick, dark, and scarred. Itchiness is usually worse at night when you go to bed because of sweat from the day’s activity or the body is beginning to react from the several activities it has passed through.
Scratching can also lead to infection. You will notice that the red bumps that hurt and can be filled with pus. Be sure to see your doctor if this happens.
Other symptoms of atopic dermatitis include:
Scaly, dry skin
Rash that bubbles up, then weeps clear fluid
Cracked skin that bleeds
Skin creasing on the palms of the hand or under the eye
Darkening of skin around the eyes
Clogged hair follicles that cause bumps on the upper arms, thighs, and face
Doctors aren’t really sure of what causes eczema. It seems to run in families, so if one of your parents or siblings has it, there may be a stronger chance that you or your child will have it, too.
Kids with it sometimes have someone in the family who has allergies, hay fever, or asthma. Some experts think that makes them more likely to get eczema. About half of kids who get it will also get hay fever or asthma.
Living somewhere that’s often cold or has a lot of pollution may increase your chances of getting it, as well.
Some people think atopic dermatitis is linked to food allergies, but that’s rarely true. Atopic dermatitis isn’t contagious. You can’t catch it or give it to someone else.
Your skin might be fine for a long time. But then something happens to cause a rash or itchiness. Some things that trigger atopic dermatitis or make it worse include:
Strong soaps and detergents
Some fabrics, like wool or scratchy materials
Perfumes, skin care products, and makeup
Pollen and mold
Stress and anger
Dry winter air/low humidity
Long or hot showers/baths
Dust or sand
Certain foods (usually eggs, dairy products, wheat, soy, and nuts)
You can’t cure eczema. But there are things you can do to ease flares and maybe even stop them from happening.
Avoid triggers. Figure out what causes your skin problems and try to avoid those triggers. For example, if certain soaps or fabrics seem to cause rashes, stop using them. Try to avoid cigarette smoke, animal dander, and pollen if those seem to make your skin worse.
Take care of your skin. It’s key to keep your skin moisturized. The best choices are thick creams or ointments that have little water. Put them on as soon as you get out of the shower or bath while your skin is still wet. Make sure you don’t take baths or showers that are too hot or too long. That can dry out your skin.
Treat symptoms. Your doctor may suggest some medication for your symptoms. These might include steroid creams or ointments for mild flares or steroid pills for more severe cases.
Other treatments may include:
Antihistamines to control itching, especially at night
Antibiotics if you have an infection
Drugs to suppress your immune system
And any other skin creams