Remember: More scratching leads to a stronger urge to itch.
Scratching an eczema itch might feel pretty satisfying for the time being, but that scratch will make eczema symptoms—including the urge to itch—increasingly worse. An itch leads to a scratch, a scratch leads to a rash, and a rash leads to a stronger itch. Hello, vicious cycle.
A crucial key to disrupting this frustrating itch-scratch cycle is avoiding the itch altogether. Easier said than done, of course. Luckily, certain lifestyle tweaks can make that itch much easier to resist. Here’s what dermatologist Suzanne Friedler, MD, of the Mount Sinai Hospital and St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, recommends to her patients with eczema.
Keep nails short and clean. Not only are nails abrasive on the skin when you scratch, but they can harbor yucky bacteria that can easily infect dry, cracked skin, a common symptom of eczema.
Use a cold compress and a rich moisturizer. Got an irresistible sensation to itch? The cold compress might disrupt that need to itch by distracting the skin with the cold stimulus. Following it up with a cream or ointment will lock in hydration after contact with the moisture from the compress.
Take lukewarm showers. As nice as a stream of hot water feels after a long, cold January day, those steamy showers can pull out the natural oils from your skin, says Dr. Friedler.
Create a distraction for your hands. “Scratching can often become a bad habit,” says Dr. Friedler, “rather than a response without realizing it.” To prevent or break this habit, figure out when you’re most likely to scratch, and find a distraction like coloring, knitting, stress balls, or fidget spinners.
Choose creams and ointments instead of lotion. These will do a better job creating a barrier on the skin to lock in moisture. Here’s more information about choosing the right moisturizer for eczema.
Try an oatmeal bath. Add colloidal oatmeal (you can buy packets at the drugstore) to lukewarm water, and limit yourself to 10 to 15 minutes in the tub. Gently pat dry afterward, and apply a moisturizer while the skin is still damp, within three minutes. Find more tips for showering or bathing with eczema here.
If your eczema itch is severe and the above tips aren’t helping, your eczema might be undertreated. See a dermatologist to ensure your treatment plan is right for you. And don’t miss the most common skin care mistakes that make eczema worse.
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Eczema is a vicious cycle scratching,
the itch becomes a scratch and
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the scratch transits into a rush.
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These are few steps l gave my patients
that can help break the cycle.
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Of course, this is all easier
certain done but stop scratching.
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It's very important to avoid scratching,
because the more you scratch,
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the more your skin itches.
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Keep your fingernails cut short,
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Scratching with your nails can introduce
dangerous bacteria into the skin.
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Cracked skin makes it easier for
bacteria to invade and spread, and
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that often makes the skin
condition worse as well.
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Cool compresses followed by a rich
moisturizer can help to break the cycle.
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Cold showers aren't fun, but if you can
have a lukewarm to warm shower it's much
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better for your skin than going hot.
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Hot showers feel great in the winter,
but they can pull out the natural oils
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from your skin and make your skin
much drier and more prone to eczema.
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Scratching can often become a bad habit
rather than a response without realizing.
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Identify when you're most likely to
scratch and create a distraction for
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your hands, such as using a stress ball or
a fidget spinner.
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You might save yourself from scratching
during a TV program without even
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Use the creams or
ointments to lock in moisture and
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provide a barrier between
the skin cells and allergens.
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Ointments contain more oil than water and
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therefore ideal locking in
moisture over creams and lotions.
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An oatmeal bath may help ease the itching.
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Pre-packaged bath mixes can be
bought at any local drug store.
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After the bath,
pat dry with a soft towel and
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apply moisturizer while
the skin is still damp.
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If you're really suffering from itch, it's
likely your eczema is under-treated and
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see your dermatologist for solutions.
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Don’t scratch! What to do when your eczema itches. New York, NY: WebMD, 2017. (Accessed on August 28, 2017 at http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/eczema/ss/slideshow-eczema-itch-dont-scratch#1.)
How to stop itching your skin if you have eczema. Health, 2017. (Accessed on August 28, 2017 at http://www.health.com/eczema/itchy-skin-eczema.)
Stop itchy skin before it starts. Schaumburg, IL: American Academy of Dermatology. (Accessed on August 28, 2017 at https://www.aad.org/public/kids/skin/eczema/stop-itchy-skin-before-it-starts.)