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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Apply cold, wet wraps. If
itching becomes intense, ask your dermatologist about wet wraps.
This therapy helps relieve intense itching for many patients.
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.
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.
Infection Common in Patients with
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developed by the American Academy of Dermatology