26th July, 2016
Sandie Cormie

Eczema can be acute, chronic or both.It’s considered an allergy and an allergic reaction happens when the immune system over-reacts to otherwise harmless antigens. Psychological stress is considered to be a significant factor in eczema, it can trigger a flare-up or aggravate an existing bout.

  • Acute eczemais a rapidly evolving red rash which may blister and swell and result in a thickened, itchy and weepy lesion. Often precipitated by contact with certain plants or insect bites or stings. 
  • Chronic eczema, by comparison, presents as a long standing area of irritation, often darker than the surrounding skin. The skin of the area affected tends to be thicker (lichenified) and very itchy. Eczema occurs most commonly in the folds of skin found in the crook of the arm as well as behind the knees. Cheeks, neck, wrists and ankles are also susceptible. Seborrheic eczema can affect the scalp, forehead, brows, ears, nasolabial folds, mid-chest and mid-back.
  • Eczema can also be caused by an injury to the skin.

While atopic dermatitis (eczema) can occur at any age, it is more common in children and believed to have a genetic component. It tends to be a long-lasting condition that is subject to flare-ups with periods of subsidence.

It is less common in humid areas, which suggests that a moist atmosphere maintained by humidifiers is likely to help control eczema, especially in winter when dryness becomes a real problem. Eczema, asthma and hay fever are like allergy triplets, that like to do things together.

Super-sensitive, eczema-prone skin may react to a number of irritants which cause dry scaly patches of skin with a varying intensity of itch. The irritants are generally things that most people are not allergic to – like dust (mites), nickel, perfume, hair dye, latex, sweat, pet dander and preservatives. It makes sense to limit one’s contact with known irritants and to use protective gloves when relevant. Other compounding elements may include detergents and soaps, chemicals, cosmetics, jewellery, heat and certain natural or synthetic fibres – like wool or any combination of synthetic fibres that generate friction or cause one to sweat.

The chances of eczema occurring in one’s senior years is relatively high as dry skin becomes a natural factor with age, especially in post-menopausal women. The areas most commonly affected are the lower legs.


  • Identify the type of eczema by consulting with a GP or dermatologist. He or she may prescribe a topical steroid for the itchy areas, an antibiotic if the scratching has led to a bacterial infection or antihistamines to help suppress the itch.
  • Avoid over-bathing and choose to shower rather than bath. Use lukewarm water in preference to hot and apply soap-free products for washing.
  • Shower after exercising.
  • Use an emollient body lotion immediately after showering every day, preferably when the skin is slightly damp. As a rule, the drier the skin, the thicker the emollient required. It is crucial to keep the skin moisturised in order to reduce itch and trans-epidermal water loss, improve skin barrier function and prevent the entry of irritants and bacteria.
  • Avoid using perfumed products.
  • Avoid foods known to cause a reaction.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes in natural fibres. Switch to wearing 100% cotton apparel against the skin.
  • Use cool compresses to control itch.
  • Consult experts on stress management.

Treatments like antihistamines and hydrocortisone creams are recommended to help relieve and remedy eczema, though these potential solutions are best applied under medical supervision. Please feel free to make use of the medical expertise offered at our Dis‑Chem Wellness Clinics. The preliminary advice will determine whether you should consult your GP for prescription medicines.

Also, try BioNike – a skincare range free of preservatives, fragrance and gluten. It’s also nickel tested to meet the exacting requirements of EU legislation. The BioNike Triderm range, in particular, is well worth exploring to help resolve the discomfort of eczema.