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Allergic Eczema

Atopic dermatitis, infantile eczema, atopic eczema – you might be familiar with these terms. Eczema, however you name it, is a general term. It is a chronic skin disorder / allergy usually characterized by scaly and itchy rashes. Allergic eczema is an allergy reaction to certain substances that are 'foreign' to our bodies.

Allergic eczema is a very common disorder, children being very prone to it. Although it can occur just once, it generally keeps coming back or lasts the entire lifetime. In children, mostly the disease clears up and disappears with age.

Causes –

What causes eczema is unknown till date. It can be triggered by just about anything that comes in contact with the skin.

Some possible factors that worsen the condition –
  • Exposure to airborne pollutants, dust, smoke, animal dander, temperature changes.
  • Stress
  • Rough or coarse material coming in contact with skin.
  • Certain soaps, detergents, cosmetics, perfumes
  • Contact with juices from fresh fruits.
The list is endless!!!!

The “itch” triggers are not the same for every person and it is very difficult to find out the exact cause of a flare-up.

Some of the common allergens causing allergic eczema:

It is not known why some substances cause allergy eczema, but the common offenders are:

  • nickel - often used in jewellery, belt buckles, metal watch straps.
  • perfumes
  • rubber and related chemicals - shoes, tyre
  • potassium dichromate - cement, matches.
  • medications – lanolin (in moisturizers), neomycin (antibiotic), hydrocortisone (in steroid creams)
  • resins and gums - used in hobby work, woodwork.
  • plants - both by direct contact and by contact with airborne pollen particles.

Foods which potentially cause skin reactions include:

  • sugar
  • shellfish
  • citrus fruits and their peel
  • brinjal or eggplant
  • spices - mustard, garlic
  • certain seafoods
  • meat and poultry.

This is by not a comprehensive list of all possible allergens that can cause allergy eczema, it differs from person to person.

In certain cases, if the eczema is worsening or not responding to treatment, check out the topical cream you are using. Perhaps that is the cause itself!!!!!!


Symptoms –

  • The initial symptom is intense itching followed by appearance of rashes. This causes a burning, tingling sensation. In children, rashes appear on cheeks, elbows, knees, whereas in adults, it commonly involves the inside surfaces of the knees and elbows.
  • Blisters; if scratched, the blisters may ooze and become crusty and scaly.
  • Infected skin area becomes abnormally dark or light in colour.
  • Painful cracks may develop followed by bleeding.
  • In some cases, there might be ear discharge

Diagnosing allergic eczema:

If you suspect that you or someone in your family has started showing symptoms of allergic eczema, visit the doctor for a proper diagnosis. The doctor will try to determine what is causing the rash by enquiring about things one has been exposed to (e.g., animals, dust). He will also look for the characteristic scaling, ask about the intensity of the itching, and ask about other allergies that may contribute to the eczema symptoms.

Allergy testing may be advised to confirm whether the rash is caused by food or airborne allergies or something else.


Treatment –

Effective treatment requires a correct diagnosis of the allergen. Conventional treatment of eczema focuses on either blocking the immune response, or in more severe cases, suppresses the entire immune role with steroids - both topical and systemic. While this approach can provide suggestive and temporary relief, it does nothing to tackle the underlying cause of the problem.

Eczema cannot be cured in most cases, but it can be managed well and controlled.


Self care at home –

The simplest treatment is to remove the allergy causing agent. You can do that either at home by keeping a track on your habits or go for a laboratory allergy testing.

  • Prevent dry skin. Use a mild soap while bathing and follow it up with a moisturizer. Take notice of irritating substances.
  • Applying a cold compress to the allergic skin can relieve itching. Wet dressings with cool water can be helpful for moderate to severe eczema.
  • Avoid scratching the rash, for it will only increase the irritation.
  • Avoid stress. Undertake light activity, eat good healthy food with generous helpings of green veggies and fresh fruits – this might help prevent flare-ups.

Do not expect a quick response.

Medication:

If unable to control the situation, go for medical treatment which involves anti-inflammatory medication.

  • Main aim of treatment is to relieve discomfort.

It depends on

    • age, health and medical history of patient.
    • severity of eczema present.
  • Since eczema is a dry, itchy and flaky disease, treatment involves applying lotions, creams to keep the skin moist.
  • The doctor may also prescribe a change in lifestyle diet along with medication.
  • Chemical skin drying agents may be used, but the result is not proven.
  • In very severe cases, alternate treatments such as chemotherapy, phototherapy may also be given.

Follow up steps and prevention –

  • Keep the allergic area clean, dry to avoid further breakdown. Avoid scratching.
  • Avoid whatever causes a flare up of your eczema.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Keep bedrooms, play areas free of dust mites (a common eczema causing agent).
  • Children should be dressed in comfortable, loose cotton clothing.

Eczema is not contagious . It is often hereditary. If you avoid certain allergic irritants in your lifestyle and carefully follow medical treatment, you’ll definitely see improvement as time goes by.