Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) Treatment

Skin Care at Home

You and your doctor should discuss the best treatment plan and medications for your atopic dermatitis. But taking care of your skin at home may reduce the need for prescription medications. Some recommendations include 

  • Avoid scratching the rash or skin. 
  • Relieve the itch by using a moisturizer or topical steroids. Take antihistamines to reduce severe itching. 
  • Keep your fingernails cut short. Consider light gloves if nighttime scratching is a problem. 
  • Lubricate or moisturize the skin two to three times a day using ointments such as petroleum jelly. Moisturizers should be free of alcohol, scents, dyes, fragrances, and other skin-irritating chemicals. A humidifier in the home also can help. 
  • Avoid anything that worsens symptoms, including 
    • Irritants such as wool and lanolin (an oily substance derived from sheep wool used in some moisturizers and cosmetics) 
    • Strong soaps or detergents 
    • Sudden changes in body temperature and stress, which may cause sweating 
  • When washing or bathing 
    • Keep water contact as brief as possible and use gentle body washes and cleansers instead of regular soaps. Lukewarm baths are better than long, hot baths. 
    • Do not scrub or dry the skin too hard or for too long. 
    • After bathing, apply lubricating ointments to damp skin. This will help trap moisture in the skin. 

Wet Wrap Therapy

Photo of young boy wrapped in towels sitting in a bathtub

Eczema Wet Wrap Treatment

Credit: NIAID

Researchers at NIAID and other institutions are studying an innovative treatment for severe eczema called wet wrap therapy. It includes three lukewarm baths a day, each followed by an application of topical medicines and moisturizer that is sealed in by a wrap of wet gauze.

People with severe eczema have come to the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, for research evaluation. Treatment may include wet wrap therapy to bring the condition under control. Patients and their caregivers also receive training on home-based skin care to properly manage flare-ups once they leave the hospital.

For more information, see the NIAID Eczema Photo Essay and video, Helping Kids with Severe Eczema.

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