If you have already been diagnosed with eczema, you know the irritations of the red, inflamed, itchy and excessively dry skin that the condition causes. Unfortunately, your concern doesn’t stop there. Patient’s who have been diagnosed with dermatitis need to be aware of infections and take preventive measures that are necessary for warding them off.
One of the most common and dangerous infections is caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. This bacteria leads to Staph Infection. About 90% of eczema sufferers are colonized with Staphylococcus aureus on their skin just itching to enter any number of the wounds, scabs or cracks associated with untreated eczema. Another location of this bacteria is inside the nasal cavity. It is extremely important that you keep your fingers (or those fingers of little ones diagnosed with dermatitis) out of the nose.
Symptoms of skin infections may include:
- Blisters filled with pus that may or may not burst and leak.
- Inflammation of the skin that produces heat that can be felt by the touch.
- Swelling of the skin.
- Extreme redness of the skin.
- Honey colored crusting around the infected area of the skin.
- Outbreak of bumps that appear like cold sores.
If you suspect that you have contracted an infection or are experiencing any of these symptoms with your eczema, it is imperative that you make an appointment with a licensed dermatologist right away. You can often help get it under control by treating your eczema. When eczema is left untreated, the likelihood of staph infection can increase and can become dangerous if not addressed.
In my experience, the vast majority of cases of eczema that are even frankly infected can often be controlled by treating the eczema. One study even showed that the use of topical steroids actually decreased infection rates; probably because it helped to decrease the inflammation that was causing the skin barrier to crack. Of note, topical steroids need to be used in addition to methods for skin barrier optimization to help prevent the steroids from breaking down the very important lipid layer of the skin.
Measures for Avoiding Skin Infection
- Showering and Bathing: Avoid excessive bathing
- Soaps: Use mild soaps if you use any soap at all. Most soaps in the world contain countless irritants and allergens that have been found to be particularly bad for the treatment of eczema. Only use soap if the affected area literally needs cleaning. Be sure to avoid surfactants including cocamidopropyl betaine, cocamide DEA and MEA, and some people can even be allergic to the glucoside surfactants (the name of the ingredient on the bottle will include the word; glucoside.). Also avoid any sulfates, fragrances, dyes, and essential oils. Even oatmeal containing soaps are not really a good idea for eczema sufferers as there may be a lurking gluten allergy in a few people. I have been working on some safe soaps for about two years and hopefully they will be available soon!.
- Moisturize: Moisturize right after showering. Apply moisturizer at least twice a day. It is best to stick to a routine and not switch out products. If you use one lotion one day and a different one the next and experience some type of reaction, it would be difficult for you to determine which product was causing the irritation. Truly hypoallergenic products are perfect for all skin types, but the term hypoallergenic is completely unregulated, so please make yourself aware of the allergens that can make eczema worse. Naturally, the TrueLipids line is hypoallergenic, is free of 88 top allergens and focuses on skin barrier optimization (SBO), meaning it is formulated to help the skin repair itself with essential skin lipid replacement.
- Ceramides: Ceramides make up about 47% of the epidermis. Your skin loses essential ceramides with sun damage, exposure to extremely hot climates and other environmental factors. It is important to replace the ceramides that are crucial to optimizing your skin’s barrier. The best skin care products will utilize the healing properties of ceramides.
- Humidity: Invest in a humidifier and keep the humidity at 45-55%, to avoid excessive drying of the skin.
- Avoid Scratching: When you have an itch that won’t quit it can prove difficult not to scratch it but it is especially important to minimize scratching when infection is involved. Take preventive measures including such as, trimming your nails short, icing areas that are extremely itchy, applying a hydrocortisone cream and applying pressure to the area that itches. Scratching is the number one thing to spread infection in eczema. Luckily, severe and systemic infections from Staphylococcus aureus are rather uncommon in most cases of eczema; especially when the eczema is treated appropriately.
- Know Your Triggers: Identifying triggers that initiate eczema flares is essential to your defense plan. Keep a journal of activities, foods consumed and other environmental factors that could be causing your flares to worsen. This will help you to avoid your triggers. What triggers one person varies from what triggers another. Of note, a recent review on diet in eczema showed that it is really not necessary to go through the very painful food restriction diets that so many people do unless you are one of those people who have an obvious trigger.
By adhering to these skin care tips you will best optimize your skin’s barrier, ward off infection and improve your skin’s health.