EczemaNet Spotlight Article
Infections and Eczema: What You Can Do to Reduce the Risk

When a person has eczema (atopic dermatitis), the risk of getting an infection rises. Even a person with mild atopic dermatitis can develop a severe infection. Here are some things you can do at home to reduce the risk:

  1. Identify and eliminate potential triggers. Triggers are things that make the skin flare, causing atopic dermatitis to appear. Some common triggers include wool, soaps, pet fur, perfumes, cosmetics, and household cleaners. This does not mean that everyone who has atopic dermatitis will have a flare-up when one of these touches the skin, but many people who have atopic dermatitis do get a flare-up. By noticing when flare-ups occur, you will learn what irritates the skin. Avoiding contact with these will help reduce flare-ups.

  2. Keep skin moisturized. When the skin becomes dry and itchy, the desire to scratch becomes overwhelming. Using a non-irritating moisturizer can keep the skin from becoming dry and itchy. Moisturizer should be applied frequently throughout the day and always after bathing while the skin is still moist.

  3. Avoid excessive bathing. Dermatologists recommend a daily bath for most patients with atopic dermatitis. The bath should be short, the water lukewarm, and the soap mild. Be sure the soap does not irritate the skin, and use the soap only when needed. If you are not sure if you should bathe daily, ask your dermatologist.

  4. Keep indoor humidity and temperature the same year round. Using a humidifier in the winter and air conditioning in the summer can help. Dermatologists generally recommend keeping the humidity level between 45% and 55%. You can use a hygrometer, a device that measures humidity, to monitor the amount of moisture in the air. Hygrometers are available in places where thermometers are sold, such as a local hardware store.

    The temperature should be comfortable and not cause the person with atopic dermatitis to sweat. Sweat can trigger a flare-up.

  5. Stay away from anyone who has cold sores or chickenpox. The virus that causes cold sores (herpes simplex virus) and the virus that causes chickenpox (varicella zoster virus) can cause a severe skin infection in people who have atopic dermatitis. To prevent this, be sure to stay away from anyone who has cold sores or chickenpox.

  6. Reduce stress as much as possible. Stress can cause atopic dermatitis to flare. It is important for people who have atopic dermatitis to know what causes their stress and develop strategies for managing these stressors.

  7. Apply cold, wet wraps. If itching becomes intense, ask your dermatologist about wet wraps. This therapy helps relieve intense itching for many patients.

  8. Minimize sweating. Your own sweat can irritate your skin and cause a flare-up. To minimize sweating, dermatologists often recommend that their patients who have atopic dermatitis wear clothes made of cotton or moisture-wicking sport fabrics, and dress in layers. This will help prevent overheating and sweating. When clothing is made from a synthetic fabric such as polyester, the fabric tends to trap the sweat.

    Taking breaks when exercising also can be helpful.

  9. Keep fingernails short. Short nails decrease the likelihood that scratching will puncture the skin. Keeping nails short and wearing cotton gloves at night may help prevent puncturing the skin while asleep. Punctured skin is much more likely to become infected.

More Information
Infection Common in Patients with

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Page last updated 1/14/10

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