What to do if you have eczema (atopic dermatitis)?
You developed a rash somewhere on your body and it’s itchy. You go to your Doctor and they tell you that you have eczema…or you already know and have been living with it. You’ve been probably told that there is no cure for eczema and you have to live it. To my knowledge, you might be in anyone of these situations or a combination of them:
- Take the prescription medication for the foreseeable future only during flares ups
- Able to keep your eczema under control through hydrocortisone creams and antihistamines
- The prescription medications are no longer working, stronger medications are prescribed and your eczema seems to be getting worse and worse
- Your skin might have become addicted to topical steroids due to daily use and/or going through withdrawal symptoms
- Looking for alternative treatments to get your eczema under control
- Growing out of it
First things first, no matter what stage you or a family member maybe in with their eczema, you should educate yourself. This is where I failed and hoping you can learn from my mistake.
I researched everything I could about eczema. The symptoms, the triggers such as environmental factors, airborne allergens, foods, stress, and how to live with eczema. I made sure my room was clean to minimize the dust, didn’t shower with hot water or harsh soaps, avoided known foods to trigger eczema and so forth. None of which seemed to work.
Suggestions such as drink more water, moisturizer daily, move to a different city/country, try installing a water softener, get more sunlight and more was always suggested. How many different things are we supposed to try before finding some sort of relief?
Where I failed was not educating myself on how to effectively use these medications and relying heavily on them. While using hydrocortisones, antihistamines, creams and lotions, I was finally able to not let my eczema dictate my life. My skin was clear, my self-confidence and self-esteem were pretty high. However, I didn’t educate myself nor was I educated on the side effects of continuous use of these medications.
I’ve had eczema since I was about 7 years old. I was too young to understand eczema let alone understanding how these medications worked. Not once did I think about the negative consequences of using steroid creams on a daily basis as I grew up. Why would I? It was a part of my daily routine because there was no cure.
So, educate yourself on everything about eczema (or other skin conditions) as well as the medications prescribed by your doctor. Maybe even read the warning label on the box unlike me. Understand exactly how these medications work and help control your symptoms. If it says, “If symptoms last longer than X days or worsen, consult a healthcare practitioner”, it is probably time to see your doctor again and find something else.
If you find yourself heavily using the prescription creams, it might be a good time to very slowly decrease the dosage and find something else that works.
Change It Up
I wish I hadn’t gone through topical steroid withdrawal twice but I definitely learned my lesson. If I had been educated properly at an early age through some sort of program offered by hospitals or governments, things may have been different. I may have been able to avoid getting addicted to these creams in the first place.
With all the information I know (and still learning) and my experiences, I would have dealt with my eczema much differently. For starters, I would have used the steroid creams to get the eczema under control and slowly wean off it.
While doing that, I would have cleaned up my diet by eliminating dairy and gluten and take supplements that are beneficial to eczema (Vitamin C & D, Omega 3, Probiotics and L-glutamine). I could have slowly transitioned away from the creams and on to Naturopathy or homeopathy.
Learning to live with it
Regardless if your eczema is severe like mine or mild, we need to learn to live with it. For most of my life, I didn’t want to deal it with. I just wanted to apply the creams, take the pills and just be normal. I didn’t want to put in the work and think about it so that it didn’t interfere with my life. Taking a bath 2-3 times a day, moisturizing morning, afternoon and night, applying your creams, dealing with the itchiness, is a lot of work. On top of that, the supplements I have to remember to take throughout the day to help me from the inside out.
Eczema adds extra time on top of the basic things we do before we go out to school/work/socials and when winding down at home. But as you put in the time everyday to keep it under control, the less and less it actually gets in the way of life.
Live your life
Regardless of if you have eczema, other skin conditions or any other illness you are facing, do not forget to live your life. At the end of the day, you will always look back on the good times you had when everything is said and done.
You’d rather not let anything get in the way of that. While I was still going through topical steroid withdrawal and still being super self conscious, I still went out and tried to live my life. I traveled during the summer, worked out when I could, went on road trips, attended my favourite artist’s concert and took part in one of my best friend’s wedding.
I could have easily stayed home and hid myself from the world because my skin was still red, dry, flaky and little swollen. But I didn’t, I now have awesome memories and pictures to remember for the rest of my life.
Below are list of resources to help educate yourself on eczema, typical treatment plans and more.