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  • What’s That Rash?
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Health and Fitness News

What’s That Rash?

Your itchy, red skin may be caused by eczema. Here’s what you need to know about this common skin condition.

How many times have you or your child had a rash and you had no idea what it was or what caused it? Most people get rashes at some point in their life. Some are itchy, other aren’t. Some are raised bumps, other are flat spots. There are dozens of different types of rashes, but one of the most common is called eczema. Affecting 10 to 20 percent of kids and roughly three percent of adults, eczema includes a broad range of conditions that cause the skin to become reddened and irritated.

Here’s how to tell if you have eczema and what you can do to treat and prevent it.

Atopic Dermatitis

It may be hard to pronounce, but the most common type of eczema is known as atopic dermatitis. The word atopic refers to an allergy or sensitivity to something in the environment. Dermatitis is a term that means red, inflamed, painful skin.
Allergies can trigger an eczema breakout. A child with atopic dermatitis usually has a family member with allergies, hay fever, or asthma. Half of kids with eczema go on to later develop allergies, hay fever, or asthma.

It Itches!

A defining feature of eczema is an itchy rash that appears most often on the face, wrists, hands, back of the knees, crooks of the elbows, or feet. These itchy, bumpy areas look dry or scaly and especially red on fair-skinned people. In dark-skinned people, the rash may lighten or darken the affected skin. Babies with eczema may develop an itchy rash that oozes and crusts. Scratching the itchy rash is so tempting, but scratching only makes the rash worse. Symptoms of eczema normally worsen as time goes by and then slowly improve. The rash typically comes and goes in flare-ups. Sometimes the rash disappears for months at a time. During adolescence and early adulthood the eczema may worsen due to hormonal changes, stress, or cosmetic use, but most people outgrow eczema by adulthood.

While many people fear that rashes are contagious, eczema is not. Direct contact will not spread the rash.

Overactive Immune System

When the immune system works as it should, you’re healthy and strong. A single kink in the system, and you can wind up with conditions such as eczema. For an unknown reason, exposure to some sort of irritant causes those with eczema to break out in an itchy rash. Flare-ups can be caused by skin contact with a rough material, changes in temperature, soaps, detergents, animals, colds, or stress.

Stop the Itch

Many rashes don’t itch or hurt and go away on their own, but a rash like eczema needs to be treated to relieve the itch. Too much scratching increases the risk of infection. The best forms of treatment are creams and lotions to moisturize and bring relief to dry, itchy skin. Talk with your doctor about the safest and most effective ways to treat your condition. Over-the-counter or prescription steroid creams, antihistamine medication, phototherapy, tar treatments, or other medical intervention may be necessary to treat flare-ups.

Eczema Prevention

Pay attention to what brings about your eczema events. Once you figure out what triggers your eczema, you can prevent flare-ups by avoiding those triggers.
Another part of prevention and treatment is keeping your skin moisturized. With a few easy steps, you can do this and give your skin a break from the eczema that is plaguing you. Avoid hot baths or showers, which dry the skin; use mild, unscented soaps; gently pat your skin dry instead of rubbing; and wear soft, breathable clothes. After bathing, apply moisturizer to your skin and remember—if you get eczema, don’t scratch!

On top of these tips, avoid sudden temperature changes and high heat and learn healthy ways of managing stress. Follow these tips and your eczema may be a thing of the past.