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Finding Solutions for Eczema

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11 Ways to Manage Eczema Itch

Medically Reviewed By Bukky Aremu, APRN

You may be able to manage itching related to eczema by keeping your skin moisturized, applying topical medications, and avoiding flare-up triggers. It’s also important to avoid scratching, as this can make itching worse and may cause infection. If over-the-counter and home remedies aren’t managing the itch, it may be time to talk with your doctor. They may recommend prescription topical or systemic medications or procedures like phototherapy.

This article discusses 11 ways to manage eczema itching.

1. Avoid your triggers

A person applying cream to the back of their hand
Abhishek Mehta/Getty Images

Prevention is an important step in managing your eczema symptoms, including itchiness. According to the National Eczema Association (NEA), common irritants that may cause eczema flare-ups include:

  • dry skin
  • stress
  • environmental allergens, like pollen or pet dander
  • weather changes
  • organic materials like wool
  • non-organic materials like polyester or latex
  • certain metals, including nickel or copper
  • chemicals found in household cleaners, detergents, or skin care products
  • food allergies

It may help to keep a record of your flare-ups and write down what you were doing, what you touched, or what you ate. Once you’ve identified your personal triggers, try to avoid them as much as possible.

Learn more about common eczema triggers.

2. Avoid scratching

The skin’s protective barrier is typically disrupted Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source in people with eczema. This means that it’s easier for water to escape the skin, leading to dryness and itchiness that may cause you to scratch.

Scratching can further damage the skin and may cause infection.

Additionally, scratching may continue Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source what is known as the “itch-scratch cycle.” This is where skin damage causes moisture loss and allows pathogens to enter the skin, which leads to inflammation and may further worsen itchiness, which leads to more scratching. Once you start scratching, it may be hard to stop.

3. Apply a cold compress

The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends cold or cool compresses as a remedy for eczema itching. To make a compress, you simply soak a clean washcloth in cold water and wring out the excess water. Hold it to your skin to relieve the itch, and moisturize afterward.

4. Bathe carefully

People with eczema may need to adjust their bathing practices to protect their skin. Here are a few practices from the NEA that may be beneficial:

  • Use lukewarm water: Choose a shorter bath or shower with lukewarm water instead of hot. Too much washing with hot water can dry your skin out and make it even itchier.
  • Choose a gentle cleanser: A gentle, fragrance-free cleanser, rather than a harsh soap, will be less likely to irritate your skin and make it itch more.
  • Pat dry: Rubbing your skin briskly with a towel can irritate it, so be gentle when drying off.
  • Moisturize: Apply moisturizer within a few minutes of drying off and wait a little bit before getting dressed to allow the moisturizer to set in.

5. Try an oatmeal or bleach bath

People with eczema may benefit from a few different types of baths, including oatmeal baths and bleach baths.

Oatmeal baths are fairly simple: add 1 cup of ground oats Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source to a bathtub full of warm — not hot — water. Doing this daily may help temporarily relieve itching.

Bleach baths may also be beneficial, but it’s important to dilute the bleach properly. The NEA recommends adding a half cup of household bleach to a full tub of water, or a quarter cup to a half-full tub. Soak for no more than 10 minutes, then rinse off with lukewarm water. You can do this 2–3 times a week.

6. Moisturize regularly and thoroughly

Dry skin tends to itch Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source , and keeping your skin hydrated can reduce the itch. Choose a thick cream or ointment over a thinner lotion, and look for fragrance-free versions to avoid further irritating your skin.

You might also consider a moisturizer containing ceramides, which are waxy lipid molecules that can help your skin hold in moisture.

Research from 2021 Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source concluded that ceramide-dominant moisturizing cream was a safe way to restore the skin’s protective barrier and reduce eczema symptoms.

Apply a generous amount of moisturizer to your skin after bathing while the skin is still damp, and apply a few more times throughout the day.

Learn 7 skin care strategies for people with eczema.

7. Use topical treatments

Your dermatologist may recommend Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source a few topical treatments to manage eczema itching, especially those containing ingredients like corticosteroids and calcineurin inhibitors. JAK inhibitors like ruxolitinib (Opzelura) and a PDE4 inhibitor, crisaborole (Eucrisa), may also be possibilities.

Be aware that long-term use of corticosteroids isn’t recommended due to the possibility of adverse effects. If you find yourself needing to consistently use corticosteroids to manage your itching, talk with a dermatologist about other options.

8. Try wet wrap therapy

If the itch is particularly severe and your usual strategies aren’t working, wet wrap therapy may be beneficial, according to the NEA. Here are the steps:

  • After you bathe, moisturize, apply medication, and briefly dip some gauze or clean cloth in warm water.
  • Wrap the damp cloth around the affected part of your skin.
  • Apply a dry layer of cloth on top of the wet wrap.
  • Put on clothing to cover the dressings. You can leave the dressings on for several hours or even overnight.

9. Manage your stress

According to research from 2016 Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source , studies have found that psychological stress may worsen eczema symptoms by promoting inflammation. Therefore, it may help to find ways to help manage your stress, such as meditation or yoga.

Learn 6 lifestyle tips for managing severe eczema.

10. Use other medications as necessary

For people with severe eczema, systemic medications may be necessary to manage itchiness and other symptoms. Your doctor may recommend medications like:

  • biologics, including dupilumab (Dupixent)
  • JAK inhibitors, including upadacitinib (Rinvoq)
  • immunosuppressants like methotrexate (Jylamvo)

Learn 6 tips for easing hard-to-manage eczema.

11. Try phototherapy

Phototherapy, or light therapy, involves using particular wavelengths of ultraviolet (UV) light to treat eczema. This kind of treatment is generally considered safe as a second-line treatment for eczema.

However, your doctor will want to make sure you’re not getting more UV light than you really need because of the concern of side effects like Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source burning, aging, and increased skin cancer risk.

Summary

There are many different ways to relieve eczema itching, but it may take some trial and error to find the method that works best for you. If you’re finding it difficult to manage itching related to eczema, contact a doctor.

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Medical Reviewer: Bukky Aremu, APRN
Last Review Date: 2023 Nov 3
View All Finding Solutions for Eczema Articles
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