Many alternative therapies — including chamomile, evening primrose oil, witch hazel extract and borage seed oil — have been touted as possible ways to treat atopic dermatitis (eczema). However, there’s no conclusive evidence that any of these alternative therapies are effective.
If you’re considering dietary supplements or other alternative therapy to treat atopic dermatitis, consult your doctor. He or she can help you weigh the pros and cons of specific alternative therapies.
To help reduce itching and soothe inflamed skin, try these self-care measures:
- Try to identify and avoid triggers that worsen the inflammation. Rapid changes of temperature, sweating and stress can worsen the condition. Avoid direct contact with wool products, such as rugs, bedding and clothes, as well as harsh soaps and detergents.
- Apply an anti-itch cream or calamine lotion to the affected area. A nonprescription hydrocortisone cream, containing at least 1 percent hydrocortisone, can temporarily relieve the itch. A nonprescription oral antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl, others), may be helpful if itching is severe.
- Avoid scratching whenever possible. Cover the itchy area if you can’t keep from scratching it. Trim nails and wear gloves at night.
- Apply cool, wet compresses. Covering the affected area with bandages and dressings can help protect the skin and prevent scratching.
- Take a warm bath. Sprinkle the bath water with baking soda, uncooked oatmeal or colloidal oatmeal — a finely ground oatmeal that is made for the bathtub (Aveeno, others). Or, add 1/2 cup (118 milliliters) of bleach to a 40 gallon (151 liter) bathtub filled with warm water. The diluted bleach bath is thought to kill bacteria that grow on the skin.
- Choose mild soaps without dyes or perfumes. Be sure to rinse the soap completely off your body.
- Moisturize your skin. Use an oil or cream to seal in moisture while your skin is still damp from a bath or shower. Pay special attention to your legs, arms, back and the sides of your body. If your skin is already dry, consider using a lubricating cream.
- Use a humidifier. Hot, dry indoor air can parch sensitive skin and worsen itching and flaking. A portable home humidifier or one attached to your furnace adds moisture to the air inside your home. Portable humidifiers come in many varieties. Choose one that meets your budget and any special needs. And be sure to keep your humidifier clean to ward off bacteria and fungi.
- Wear cool, smooth-textured cotton clothing. Avoid clothing that’s rough, tight, scratchy or made from wool. This will help you avoid irritation. Also, wear appropriate clothing in hot weather or during exercise to prevent excessive sweating.E