Everything You Need to Know About Eczema!

Eczema is a recurring, non-infectious inflammatory skin condition that affects 1 in every 3 Australians. Although eczema can be effectively treated and managed, sadly no cure has yet been discovered.Eczema can occur at any time during someone’s life, however it seems to most commonly affect infants, where 1 in 5 children under the age of 2 will have symptoms such as dry skin, red and scaly areas of skin, itchiness and watery fluid weeping from affected skin.
  • Infantile Eczema usually starts in the first 6 months of life, and can cause an itchy red rash and dry skin. Infantile eczema usually improves significantly in the ages of 2-5 years.
  • Childhood Eczema may follow, or can start for the first time between 2-4 years. The rash and dryness are usually concentrated around the creases of the elbows, behind the knees, across the ankles, and may also affect the face, ears and neck. Luckily childhood eczema usually improves with age. While some children may completely outgrow their eczema, for many they will continue to suffer skin dryness and sensitivity into adulthood.
  • Adult Eczema is similar to that in older children, with areas of very itchy, dry, reddened skin at the elbow creases, wrists, neck, ankles and behind the knees. At times, weeping of the skin can occur. Eczema usually improves during the middle years of life, and is rarely seen in the elderly, but it can still occur.

What Causes Eczema?

It is not well understood why some people have or develop eczema. It is very common for people with other allergies and sensitivities to also suffer with eczema, and it is also known that inherited genetic factors can cause eczema.People who suffer from eczema have less water retaining properties in their skin, compared to non- sufferers, meaning that moisture is easily lost from the skin, causing it to dry out more easily.Eczema is often called atopic eczema (meaning a type of allergy where a hypersensitive reaction occurs), or allergic eczema, due to those suffering with eczema also suffering many allergic conditions. Those with moderate to severe eczema may also suffer from immediate food allergies. This does not necessarily mean that removing the food allergen is the cause of the eczema, therefore removing it from the diet will cure the eczema, it just means that removing it will reduce the incidence of immediate reactions from occurring. Removing some food(s) may result in better eczema control, but this should always first be discussed with your doctor, and done under medical supervision.Having eczema means that the skin barrier is damaged, allowing moisture to evaporate, and making the skin more susceptible to allergens and irritants. The irritation of the skin causes it to release particular chemicals that make the skin itchy. The more you scratch and disturb the skin surface, the more these chemicals are produced, leading to the distressing ‘scratch and itch’ cycle.

What are Eczema’s Symptoms?

Eczema affects the skin by causing itching, oozing, redness, and over time rough, hard, thickened skin. It is a disease that can get better or worse in a matter of days, weeks and months. When a sufferers skin worsens, this is usually referred to as an eczema flare. Being aware of the triggers that cause a flare in eczema, and having a good treatment plan and regime can ensure these triggers don’t affect the sufferers overall quality of life.Known Eczema Triggers:
  • Dry skin
  • Scratching
  • Viral or bacterial infections
  • Swimming in chlorinated swimming pools
  • Playing in sand and sandpits
  • Sitting directly on carpets or grass
  • Inhalant allergens – worsening of the skin in spring and summer may be due to increased pollen activity
  • Food intolerances
  • Irritants such as perfumes, soaps, detergents, fabrics
  • Temperature changes (such as increased heat)
  • Stress

Eczema Treatment

The most important treatment for Eczema prone skin is to keep skin well hydrated with regular moisturising, even when Eczema symptoms are relatively well controlled.
  • Use a non-soap based wash or oil
  • Moisturise the skin as frequently as possible (2-3 times daily) and always after bathing or showering
  • Treat flare ups quickly, and have a flare-up treatment plan
  • Control the itch – cold compresses and wet wraps usually work best
  • Control and prevent infection
  • Avoid triggers and irritants
There are many non-prescription products that can help you manage and treat your skin condition. From probiotics that can assist with lessening itching, and sleeplessness, to gentle body washes, cleansers and moisturisers. Come in and chat with our pharmacists about a good skin care and management regime.

Spring has Sprung!

The days are getting longer, the sun is getting warmer. While some of us are rejoicing in the welcome change from the winter chill; 1 in every 5 are suffering from itchy/stuffy noses, watery, red and itchy eyes – commonly known as hay fever.

Are you suffering?

Hay fever (or correctly called seasonal allergic rhinitis) is an allergic reaction to pollen (fine grains produced by trees, grasses, flowers and plants), dust mite, animal fur and moulds. If these allergens get into the sinuses, nose, eyes or throat, it can cause an inflammatory response leading to:

  • a runny or blocked nose,
  • sore and itchy eyes
  • itchy throat, mouth, ears and nose
  • a cough or an exacerbation of asthma (Around 8 in 10 people with asthma have allergic rhinitis, making asthma more difficult to control).
  • Blocked sinuses can also lead to headaches, earache, fatigue, poor quality sleep, a sore face and if severe enough an infection.

Tips for Reducing Pollen Exposure

  1. Stay indoors until after midday (if possible to reduce your exposure to pollen, particularly during the pollen season and on windy days.
  2. Try to avoid going out on windy days or after thunderstorms.
  3. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
  4. Do not mow the grass and stay inside when it is being mown. If mowing is unavoidable, wear a mask or consider taking a non-drowsy antihistamine if your doctor has suggested this.
  5. Consider planting a low allergen garden around the home.
  6. Keep windows closed both at home and particularly when in your car (and where possible use recirculating air conditioning in your car).
  7. Do not picnic in parks or outdoors during the pollen season.
  8. Try to plan your holidays out of the pollen season or holiday at the seaside.
  9. If you are sensitive to particular weeds or trees that are outside your bedroom window, have them removed.
  10. If landscaping at home, research plants less likely to trigger allergic rhinitis or asthma.
  11. Shower when you arrive home and rinse your eyes frequently with water.
  12. Reduce your exposure to dust and dust mites, animals and animal hair or fur (dander).
  13. Carry a supply of tissues.

Effective Treatments Are Available

Seek advice from your pharmacist or doctor about medications or treatments that will relieve your symptoms. Although medications do not cure allergies, they are much more effective with fewer side effects than medications available 20 years ago. You just need to know the best way to use them, and to avoid medicines that can cause more problems than they solve, like frequent decongestant (unblocking) nose sprays or tablets.

  • Antihistamine tablets or syrups (non-sedating) help to reduce symptoms (sneezing, itchy and irritating eyes), but they are not as effective in controlling severe nasal blockage and dribble. The advantage of antihistamines is their flexibility; you can take them when you have problems, and avoid them when you are well. Antihistamine eye drops can also be helpful in controlling watery eyes due to allergies.
  • Intranasal corticosteroid nasal sprays (INCS) have a potent action on inflammation when used regularly (like asthma preventer medications). These need to be used regularly and with careful attention to the way in which they are used. Different brands of INCS vary in strength and effectiveness, so it is important to read the labels and check details with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Combination medications containing an antihistamine and intranasal corticosteroid nasal spray are available and offer the combined advantages of both medications.
  • Decongestant sprays unblock and dry the nose, but should not be used for more than a few days as they can cause long-term problems in the nose.
  • Decongestant tablets unblock and dry the nose, but should be used with caution as they can have ‘stimulant’ side effects like tremors, trouble sleeping, anxiety or an increase in blood pressure. People with high blood pressure should not take this medication.
  • Combination medications containing an antihistamine and decongestant are also available, but these need to be used with caution as the decongestants can cause many side effects.
  • Natural products such as salt water nasal sprays or sinus irrigation/nasal toilets can be effective in relieving symptoms.
  • Appropriate management of ‘pollen asthma’ includes commencing anti-inflammatory asthma medication either preventatively or with the first ‘wheeze’ of Spring. Some patients undergoing allergen immunotherapy for their allergic rhinitis find that their seasonal asthma improves as well.

There is no known cure for hay fever. Although it can disappear as you get older – equally, people who have never had hay fever before can also develop it later in life.

Talking with your pharmacist, and understanding how treatments work, and how to best avoid pollens, can help give you a better quality of life and keep your allergic rhinitis well controlled. Sometimes, however, symptoms may worsen, and follow up with your GP would be recommended.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!