How do you cope with an eczema flare up?

Over the years you learn to cope with eczema. You know you’ll never be quite free but once you can get a handle on keeping your skin moisturised and avoiding the things that trigger flare ups it gets easier.

Some people do grow out of it but sadly that is not the fate for all of us. Some people have cyclical flare ups which seems to be the route I’m taking. I have no idea what happens to trigger the flare up. It isn’t always bad diet, late nights and over indulging, as you might imagine. Sometimes it’s just time. It’s time your skin gave you a good kicking.

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I’ll try to explain to you what an eczema flare up is like. It starts slowly. You get a few dry itchy patches so you moisturise and use a bit of steroid cream if you have any. If you’ve had a good spell with clear skin chances are you’ll have run out of steroids completely. If you’re lucky you’ll have some manky, rusty, twisted leaky old tubes that have seen better days and run out just at that crucial moment.

It seems very hard to stay organised. Steriods are no longer left on your repeat prescription. You can only get them now if you visit your doctor or phone up to request them, and you need a good reason. It isn’t good enough just to say you’ve run out and would like to stock up your first aid box in case of a flare up. Oh no! You must now wait until such time as you really need it, but perhaps not wait quite as long as I do.

Eczema on hand and wrist

Eczema on my hand a wrist. Shows how dry my skin is

Night time is the worst. The pattern begins… you try not to scratch, give in, scratch, wake yourself up, scratch some more, get up to put on more moisturiser, itch more, scratch more, wake up finally dead to the world and feeling disgusting, slimy and gross. Tight, sore itchy skin that needs a soak in an oil bath but there is never time. So a shower and then more oily horrible ointment so you can move the sore skin. Sometimes it splits when you move. You can’t wear nice clothes or white clothes because the blood will show through. So then you get scabs the colour of your latest top. Purple today. Where the weeping sores pick up fibres from the clothes and a scab forms. Your hair is permanently greasy where your hands have pushed it back with greasy ointment traces. Nice!

It’s not nice. It’s painful, frustrating and stressful. I get by on a concoction of pain killers, antihistamines, vitamins and minerals and omega oil supplements in the vain hope that my skin will realise it’s getting some goodness. I drink plenty of water and try to get plenty of sleep, keep the eczema clean and moisturised but sometimes it decides it’s here to stay for longer than I planned for!

I often forget what it’s like for my husband to live with me when eczema strikes. When I’m good I’m very very good, but when I’m bad I’m horrid! If I’m not sleeping, neither is he. If I’m in pain and upset, he is usually the one who gets the brunt of my sharp tongue. Through thick and thin he is there for me though. He rarely complains and supports me as much as he can, short of organising a skin transplant. When he asks me, “What can I do to help?” and I demand, “New skin please, NOW! Like yours please but minus the bristles.” He will laugh, hug me and it is a bit better, but I know noone can change my atopic skin.

Eczema on face

Doesn't quite capture the tightness, soreness or rawness...

This morning when I found myself in tears, a hug from my husband helped, and he tells me to ring the doctor and make an appointment. Strange that I can’t get to that solution on my own. I never want to give in, think I can cope on my own and don’t want to worry the doctors.

I never learn. I always wait, leave it, try to cope, try to keep going, until I am literally on my knees with exhaustion, pain and frustration. These flare-ups seem to come to visit every six months or so and I just cannot cope without the intervention of steroid ointments. Winter does seem to be a common time when eczema gets worse. Whether that’s the cold weather, central heating or just pure coincidence, doesn’t really matter, but the dreary weather never helps the dark moods that come with it.

Well today I came home with a stern lecture from the doctor that my skin is far too dry, not to leave it so long before getting treatment, and a potential referral for further help. What I’m really pleased with though is the big paper bag of different steroids, emollients and antihistamines and whether it’s the placebo effect or just some sympathy from someone who was shocked at how bad my skin was and how raw, red, tight and sore – who cares! One application of steroids and I already feel ten times more positive, calmer and less in pain. Could just one application really start to make a difference that fast? Or is 50% of this battle that I am not making a fuss, this is really bad and that I only have to ask for some help…

I am telling myself I won’t let my skin get so ravaged and damaged again before seeking help. I’m pretty sure I will though, it seems the memory fades and living with eczema you get used to ignoring the itch and using natural things to try to keep it at bay. Allergies too don’t help. Often a mild reaction to a trace of an allergen will cause itchy skin and hives. If I can ignore it sometimes the lumps will recede fairly quickly without too much discomfort. Sometimes though it’s not allergies, it’s just eczema, an unwelcome guest who never announces his arrival, nor books to stay, just turns up unannounced and always outstays his welcome. Sorry boys but eczema is a man!

Sometimes oil baths, tea tree oil and aloe vera are just not quite enough. I have no idea why the flare-ups take hold, when at other times they fade and heal.

So I thought I’d share my sad little story. I talk about the allergies easily and a lot since they are so often life threatening and frightening, but I rarely talk about the eczema. Eczema is not life threatening. It’s just common old boring eczema. It’s not exciting and scary like allergies. It doesn’t need to be taken so seriously… or does it?

I find the eczema is pretty disgusting. It repulses me. I hate it. I’m ashamed of it. I feel dirty, the emollients make this worse. I feel in some way I am to blame that it comes, and it looks so horrid and it feels pretty awful. I get eczema all over too. I can’t hide it, though I can hide some of it. The worst of it gets my forehead, cheeks and neck. The eyelids take a bit of a battering too. I look pretty dreadful and generally become a bit of a recluse when these hard times hit. This just compounds the general feeling of depression and frustration. Add to this that I cannot exercise because this on bad eczema is like pouring acid into the sores. Sweat and eczema do not mix. But with no exercise you just feel worse, more isolated and more grumpy. If you can get yourself moving, even just for a walk it will help, exercise is so important but also, for the person with eczema, can be so painful.

I become paranoid that some allergen is invading my house. I am frightened to touch anything. Don’t want to eat anything in case it’s food making me so sore. I even cringe from be hugged because it hurts to be touched when really, a hug is just what I need, even if it’s a gentle one and not a painful bear hug.

Today eczema is packing its bags and let’s hope it’s gone for some time because quite frankly me and my husband could do with a good nights sleep.

So for now the rant is over and I thought I’d share a few eczema tips, though after reading this I wouldn’t blame for not taking them seriously! Clearly I’m not quite on top of this baby! But I’ll try anyway. I have learned quite a few things that both soothe and help heal and cheer me up.

  1. Have a supply of steriods for emergencies! Don’t wait till it’s too late, till you’re not sleeping and in agony. It’s not worth it. People go to the doctors with a tiny blemish so never feel bad about going with painful eczema, especially if you think it might be infected. The general rule is that you should use a strip of steroid the length of the distance from the tip of your finger to the first join or bend in the finger to cover an area the size of the palm of your hand.
  2. Keep moisturised! – this is so key. Once the skin is dry it’s so much more easy for eczema to get worse. The eczema you can see actually Goes much deeper into the skin. It’s not just on the surface. Twice a day is imperative but if you change clothes or have the time and space, more often will help if it’s really bad.
  3. Treat eczema immediately – with steroids but use sparingly, and because it can go deep into the epidermis, keep treating with smaller amounts and less frequently even after it looks like it’s gone, because it can flare right back up again if it’s not quite gone. Reduce the strength of steroid as you reduce the treatment.
  4. What’s worse? Thickened eczematous skin or using steroids? – you might think using steroids is bad, and it’s true that over-use can thin your skin. I would argue though that continued scratching and thickening of the skin is just as bad and far worse for your state of mind, well being etc.
  5. Get plenty of rest - early nights will work wonders. Once your skin starts to heal getting enough sleep will really help the rejuvination process.
  6. Have a warm oil bath – Too hot is not supposed to be good, but sometimes I find just the opposite. I use diprobath with a few drops of healing tea tree oil. When you get out of the bath, put baby oil onto your wet skin. This will seal in even more moisture. I’ve also been trying Epsom Salt baths which are also really soothing and help promote healing, my skin always feel better after a salt bath.
  7. Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of water, herbal tea, especially green, rooibosh, dandelion and fennel.
  8. Try not to touch your skin – This is very easy to say, but it’s key. The itch is persistent but if you can sit on your hands, wear cotton gloves, anything to try to break that habit. The less you touch your skin the better. I often find mine improves when I spend a day gardening for instance, when my hands are filthy or clad in filthy gloves, I don’t touch my skin because of this and as long as I always wash after gardening it can really help. I MUST leap in the shower straight away because otherwise stuff from the garden seems to irritate me when I DO start touching my skin and then you’re off again with another reaction. Get the book, The Eczema Solution by Sue Armstong-Brown, it didn’t cure mine but it DID help me realise just how often I scratch and that many times it’s a habit and not an easy one to break.
  9. Oily fish and omega 3 – supplements such as fish oil, evening primrose and borage can only help restore the elasticity to your skin. Make sure your diet is full of vitamins and minerals. Zinc, calcium, vitamin E and selenium are also good for your skin.
  10. Stay positive – keep smiling. Not easy in the face of an attack on your skin. Remember there is always someone worse off. Eczema is pretty horrible but there are far worse things you can have. Imagine your skin healthy, smooth and fresh. Wish hard enough and click your heals. Together, after three? One, two, three… see! I made you smile.
  11. Tell people how you feel – don’t suffer in silence. Explain how you feel to your family and friends, tell them you’re suffering and need some slack, help, just a cuddle. Explain to your boss at work and colleagues, most people will see you are struggling and be compassionate and understanding. If they don’t then they’re not worth bothering with.
  12. Demand help from your doctor – Never just accept eczema as the norm. It’s not normal and it’s not something anyone should have to live with. If yours is really bad you need to nag your doctor till you’re blue in the face, make them refer you to a specialist dermatologist or allergy specialist if you think allergies may be playing a part. Don’t settle for pain, suffering and isolation. Fight for your health so you can get on with life. I believe there are always things you can do to help your situation – just being told you have eczema and probably will never grow out of it now does not help. Don’t let your doctor fob you off just because he doesn’t understand. It’s not good enough. I have been in tears begging before mine has referred me but I got there in the end.
  13. Join forums like the Talk Health eczema forum and the Eczema society – Remember, you’re not alone. Having a moan on a forum or better still, helping someone else out, will really make you feel more positive. Click here to find out more about The Eczema Society.
  14. Finger nails can do untold damage – One last thing that has just struck me that I forgot to mention is that I try to keep my nails short and filed smooth with no sharp edges when my skin isn’t that healthy. It’s shocking what finger nails can do in the night. It only takes one second to create great gouges trying to get to the itch which is never satiated. Horribly the pain of torn skin can be better than the itch, but only till it starts healing and itching, and so the cycle continues…
  15. Be kind to yourself – If you are really struggling, take some time out. Don’t fight on, saying yes, going out, doing this and that and trying to keep going. If you really feel rough, exhausted and at the end of your tether you need some time out. Do something you really enjoy, sit in the sun (when there is any) for ten to twenty minutes, then seek shade, read a book, go for a walk, ring a friend, watch a good film. Be good to yourself and take time to recover.
  16. Stay cool – heat can really irritate eczema. Make sure you bed especially is cool, not hot and stuffy. Ventilate the room, put the sheets and bedding back to air them in the morning to hinder dust mite growth. Make sure you have the right kind of bedding for your skin, especially if dust is a skin irritant. Think about mattress, duvet and pillow covers to keep dust mites away from your skin and wash bedding at 60 degrees to kill all dust mites.
  17. Skin care and cosmetics – be aware of what you put onto eczematous skin, many skin care and cosmetic products can contain skin irritants which can in turn trigger eczema in people with sensitive skin. Always read labels and stick to simple, natural products that are for sensisitive skin and test on a small area before slathering on all over. Avoid all makeup and products you’re not sure of when you’re having an eczema flare up, allow skin to heal and calm before trying new products or irritating it further.
  18. Know your triggers – Keeping your skin healthy is really important when air borne triggers can also play a part. If you have hayfever or a dust allergy for instance, this can affect the skin far more severely if eczema is not under control, and it can also trigger hives, itching and so, a flare up. Understand what triggers your skin to ‘wake up’ and start itching, keep it healthy and you also protect it from some of the hay fever onslaught. (Special thanks for LRollins on Twitter for this tip)
  19. Cotton and natural fibres are best – avoid man made synthetic clothing on your skin when it’s bad. Wear 100% cotton, silk thermals and pure merino wool in winter. Some people find removing itchy labels and wearing clothes inside out so the seams don’t rub also help.
  20. Smile – stay positive no matter what. The power of the smile can work wonders. Even when you feel really rubbish you probably don’t look as bad as you think you do. So smile. Even when it hurts to. I will make you feel better and others smile back at you. Positive thinking rules.

Well, this was a fairly miserable, sad, ranty blog post. But sometimes things get hard. If you ever want a moan or have a question, come along to what allergy and we’ll do our best to either help, find someone who can, or make you laugh.

10 eczema secrets your doctor won’t tell you

10 Eczema secrets your doctor won't tell you about

FREE ebook – 10 Eczema secrets your doctor won’t tell you

And finally, here is a totally free pdf ebook with ten things your doctors won’t tell you about eczema, they are all really simply practical things that could just make a difference.

I’ve read it and it’s packed with ten really useful things everyone with eczema should know and it’s true – not one of them has ever been mentioned to me by a doctor…

It’s really interesting and anyone struggling with eczema flare-ups should consider reading it.

It’s free too so what’s stopping you? You never know, it might just help you to cope a little better.

How’s your eczema? Good? Bad? Gone for good? What do you find some useful tips on here to help keep yours at bay?

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About Ruth

Ruth works freelance as a copywriter and writes the What Allergy blog to share information with people who have allergies, eczema, asthma and food intolerances. was voted in the top 5 allergy blogs and Ruth also judges regularly for the FreeFrom Food Awards and FreeFrom Skincare Awards. She runs a support group for the Anaphylaxis Campaign and also writes regularly for Exchange, The National Eczema Society quarterly magazine.


  1. Great article! I’m able to cover all my eczema so I can see a positive in that (haha a positive in having eczema on my groin – who would have thought!) but I’ve been struggling with it for a couple weeks now and today (fathers day) it was particularly bad! Nothing like catching up with my family and having a niece trying to climb all over you when all I want to do is go home and have a bath with some QV bath oil which seems to give some relief even if staying in for too long or having it too hot makes it worse when I get out…damn it feels good right now (I have made it through the day!) like everyone, I only look for a solution on the internet when my usual actions failed. I’m big into finding my triggers but it’s so difficult to pin point!

    Is it the new (but old and run down) apartment I’ve just moved into? The apartments communal washing machine that might not run long enough to get out all the washing powder (for sensitive skin)? Maybe it’s the new shower pressure? The fact I’ve swapped from skim milk to regular? I haven’t exercised in two months due to an injury…I swapped sheets too because this place is freezing…that’s the best problem, warmer sheets make it worse and the cold makes it worse…haha finding a trigger is hard but assuming they all are trigger, that’s what I’m going to do, I’ll change what I can and hope it helps.

    Advice to the younger people looking for a solution – hang in there! Many people don’t understand what’s it’s like. like today my sister said “oh, I thought you were sick, you’re just itchy.” (She says after grabbing an antihistamine from the shops for me. Just itchy! Give me sickness any day! Damn, if a cold took away eczema give me the cold!

    We understand. jump on and have a whinge like we all have, it’ll make you feel a little better.

  2. Hi
    I think this last couple of months have been the worst I have known in a very long time. Whether it’s a combination of the temperatures, stress or whatever it is, it has been a really miserable time and at times, like so many other eczema sufferers, it can get just too much. I am really fed up of people who have never experienced eczema to tell me to either stop scratching or stop exaggerating how very uncomfortable this condition is. Still, we soldier on and try and ignore their ignorance! Ok. Getting down to the positive stuff. I have been trying my hardest to keep off the steroid creams for quite a few months now and was doing well until I used someone’s hand wash thinking it was OK for me and a couple of days later, boom! My hands were showing the tell tale signs of an eczema flare up and boy did it go to town. I have really bad allergies to fragrance I and fragrance II and all parfum so have to be so careful. I do read the labels but this said “hypoallergenic, free from parabens and so forth and so forth!!!!!!. Yeah! I tried so hard to keep the flare up under control with soothing creams I use but it became infected and I have had to go back on Fucibet for a couple of weeks as it was so bad. It is now calming down on my hands but other areas have appeared all over my body and having to be treated with the Fucibet. I use Surcare for my washing liquid and surcare washing up liquid always with lined sensitive gloves. Does anyone know of any other wash powder or liquid which is better than the Surcare. I have also found that using Cetomacrogol combined with glycerine and pure olive oil makes for a wonderful soothing cream and there is nothing in there that I am not sure about. Best wishes to you all. I am sure it’s because we are all very sensitive people and sensitive people make for a better world! :)

  3. Thank you for this post ! I think only people with eczema will get how funny it is, especially the part about the manky dried up steroid cream ! Haha !! I have had eczema all my life and am going through a flare up right now on my face and eyes (not good considering I work on a beauty counter ) I have a week off and have not worn make up for a few days now and my eczema is worse !! I can’t stop itching my eyes and my under eyes are all cracked. I just can’t get my head around it! Will definitely be trying some of your tips. I think keeping your fingernails short and filed is probably the most important one ! Anyway thank you for posting this ! X

    • Hi Marilyn, so glad I could bring some humour into your flare-up. I wonder what could be causing yours? Is it any kind of allergen? Have you been allergy tested? I have to share also that if you have facial eczema you should speak to your doctor about Protopic, it’s just amazing. My facial eczema has now almost gone after using it for a few months. Miracle cure, really. Hope you find some relief. Sometimes it just flares for no reason though and you just have to ride that flare till it goes. Thinking of you ;)

      • Ahh maybe I will have to give in and go to the doctors then ! I was thinking it could be a pet allergy as I’ve been at home with my dogs more and they are very fluffy (and cute) ?? Although I’ve had them for over 2 years and they’ve never made my skin worse before, but you know what eczema is like, could be anything ! I have just bought a new cream by dr organics that I read has been a ‘miracle cure’ for many so I’ll see how that goes !

        • If it is indoor allergies they are often worse in winter when the weather gets worse and you and pet are inside more.. Must write about this and yes very worth getting a referral and tests done. Easier said than done though. Are you near an allergy centre?

  4. Lesley Cook says:

    Just wanted to say thanks fro the great article. it cheered me up and made me stop wondering what I am doing wrong. I have had my eczema under control for 10 years but recently it has come back and I can’t work out why. This has cheered me up though. Thanks.

  5. Elizabeth Cameron says:

    Thanks so much for this article. Did make me feel better as sometimes you can feel so alone with this problem – surrounded by people with normal healthy skin who do not have to put up with annoyance of eczema. Today is a bad day for me, red and itchy, particularly my face and neck, wouldn’t mind so much if I could hide it. Anyway enough moaning! I have skin read the ebook, does anyone know who this has been written by i.e any credentials in knowing about eczema? The advice does seem quite sound and plausible. Anyway had any luck following the advice in the ebook?

    • Hi Elizabeth, I am so sorry to hear your skin is bad. I hope it gets better soon. Have you ever heard or Protopic? Read my blog about how it changed my eczema face – literally it has changed my life! No really it has. Search Protopic at the top and you’ll find it. RE the ebook, do you mean Top 10 eczema secrets? Well I vetted it pretty thoroughly before sharing. The guy who wrote it contacted me to ask if I would share it on my blog and I refused to unless he sent me a free copy to review, which he did and I was impressed. I know a lot about eczema and I thought it was well written, not misleading and had some really useful stuff in it. I will see if I can dig out the emails from the guy who wrote the book as we did have lengthy convo before I agreed to share it. You’ll notice my blog is not stuffed with adverts as I think it detracts from the experience, unless they are really worth having. I think this one is one of the good ones. Hope that helps ;)

  6. gary griffith says:

    I have found that applying a heavy coating of Noxzema helps a lot. It sort of numbs the skin and takes away the itch. I hope it helps someone else. Eczema is really bad news.

  7. I suffer terribly with mine too -primarily arms and chest, but I used to have the EXACT same problem with it on my face as in your photo – it felt like someone had got the skin at the sides of my face at the ears and was just pulling as hard as they could.
    My face flare ups occurred every 3-4 months and only steroid tablets would kick it. The original face flare up was caused by make up, and then seemed to coincide with home stress but now seems to have calmed since moving into my own home.
    I’ve tried to link mine to any allergies to no avail – I am a coeliac but have found no link between any sort of food I eat and how my skin is. My dad is almost 60 and he suffers terribly with eczema all over his hands and arms and has done from a baby, so I expect I’ll have mine for always too, but it does make me feel better knowing others feel exactly the same.

    I just wish people/the public would stop saying ‘don’t scratch’ – this gets me so angry, they just don’t understand!

    • Thanks so much for the comment. It makes sharing my experiences on here so worth it if I just help one person not to feel so alone. I look at my friends and family and no one has this problem, it does often feel like it’s just me. So… the scratching. I think it’s good to have a good ol scratch. The torment of always trying not to is just horrendous. Have you seen the Say No to Stop Scratching page on Facebook?

  8. Has anyone had a good look at their diet? I’ve heard that essentially a paleo diet (well, diet is a bad way to put it) but basically cutting out all processed foods, grains and dairy might help. I love dairy so that might be a bit rough for me. Anyone got certain trigger foods?

    • I have a diagnosed allergy to dairy so that is definitely out but also it’s a particularly bad trigger for my eczema. But you’re right, I get nodular prurigo too and this is definitely exacerbated by eating processed foods. I usually eat very simple but tasty meals cooked from scratch so not quite paleo but no processed nasties. I go by the five and clean ingredients rule. So simple things like plant milks, oat cakes, plain crisps and wine (thank goodness) are allowed. Not too much alcohol though as this does trigger my eczema but you can’t be perfect all the time. There a few brands I trust like Nairns, Frank Foods, ilumi, plamil to name just a few. There are quite a lot who do healthy processed foods which don’t have unnecessary stuff in them. It’s a great point them, anyone with eczema should look at their diet and try cutting out foods they think might cause problems. Celery and tomato give me eczema too… weird?

  9. Gary Griffith says:

    Does anyone else notice the flare ups seem to come more often and worse when you are under more stress.

    • Stress has a huge effect on eczema skin, I don’t know why, but you cannot avoid stress. Knowing this can the cause does help though, if you can then moderate and limit stressful situations and learn to cope better or avoid them you are a better man than me. heh heh.

  10. Informative post! I’m 25 years old and just had my first eczema breakout. Have no idea what triggered it and didn’t know what it was til I went to the Dr. By that time it was a scaley red itchy rash out of hell on my inner elbow and forearm that had gotten infected and the infection was in my joint. Taking levaquin and using bactroban but the itching is horrid and seems to get worse at night :/ I’m lotioning and moisturizing but now its cropping up in small patches on my other arm and legs. Hoping this is a one time deal and it goes away but from the sounds of it that isn’t likely :(

  11. Haroon Shahid says:

    Hi there!
    Just read your article and there’s a lot of quite interesting things I didn’t know about my eczema. Im currently 20 and have had eczema ever since I was roughly 4-5 years so sort of used to feeling like you did (insecure, scared of human touch and so on), but recently Ive noticed its getting worse and worse… Currently Ive got a rash flare up that hasnt gone down in about a month now, even with the use of natural ingredients like aloe vera and antihistamines as well! Im drinking lots of water and Ive even got a humidifer in my bedroom, but it seems to do no good :(

    Any tips on what to do to make this flare up go away once and for all? Ive considered detoxifying my body since Ive heard thats a large cause to the flare ups.. But dont know what to do other than drink water and green tea.

    Also, do the Evening Primrose tablets make a significant difference? And Im also allergic to fragrance and parfum but one of the largest problems im dealing with is the medicine odour on my skin. I shower twice a day but as soon as I apply a moisturiser, or any medicine or even olive oil, it starts smelling and I dont like that.. any sort of perfume that I could use which would make me smell nice and not irritate my skin?

    • I need to write another blog about how to keep eczema away I think. What do you put on your eczema? Have a look at Pure Potions skin salvation, I love it. I also have Epaderm for my skin and Diprobase for when it’s not so bad. Worth seeing if any foods trigger yours, mine is made awful by dairy products, celery and tomato and I also now get anaphylaxis to dairy so worth seeking medical advice on this one. Any herbal tea will be good, Redbush tea is lovely and nicer than green tea in my opinion. Alcohol may make it worse so if you can have a period off drinking for a bit it might help, not easy with xmas coming up. Can you visit your doctor and ask to be referred to a good nutritionist? They should be able to help you plan an elimination diet, and also what order to reintroduce each food to see what may be causing your problems. It might not be food but it was for me. I’m not sure if Evening primrose helps but if you search on this blog I have a case study of a friend of mine who was cured by taking EPA. Worth trying. As are fish oils, borage oil, eating oily fish, anything to replace those omega fatty acids that us eczema types seem to lack. Do you like the smell of coconut oil? I use that on my skin but it’s expensive, and also shea butter works for me, just as good as epaderm but also not cheap. I put tea tree oil in when a bathe too which helps my skin, which can get infected. Sending big hugs. Not nice at all, but when you mention the medicine odour, there might be something you can use without a fragrance?

    • Hi Haroon
      I have a bad eczema flare up at the moment and in my early 60’s so it has no respect for age!!!! I am not sure what started me off again 10 years ago having had eczema as a child and nothing inbetween, but doctor said it was hormonal and I just kept slapping on the old steroids and occasionally it would settle down but generally it’s been on and off now for the last 10 years. At the moment it is particularly bad on the fronts of my legs and my abdomen and my hands and I read with interest that you shower twice a day. Ooooooo, no, no, no. I know that the nicest thing to do is to step into a warm shower and wash all the horrid bits away after creaming and crusting etc but if you could try not to shower quite so often then the skin won’t lose so much moisture and the cracking and dryness and itching and infections won’t occur so often. I try not to shower everyday and that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a “proper” wash but it is true that the less you shower and bath, the better the skin is and when you do shower, come out of the shower damp and apply the cream all over so that the pores are open and the moisture left on the skin can take the cream into the skin layers. Does all that make sense? Also I am now in my 5th month of having no sterioids and I am determined to keep at it. My body has been craving them and sending me extra bits of eczema to fool me into thinking that the cream will make it all better but I am not going to give in as eventually when the body has rid itself of the toxins of the steroid creams, hopefully the skin will start to repair itself. I have also been told to keep off sugar, chocolate, anything sugary which aids and abets the growth of the eczema problem. I am currently off dairy and wheat and trying to keep off as much sugar as possible and I have to say that on the weeks I am totally clear of sugar, I am generally almost clear of the eczema too. I do wonder if there is something in the water we drink and wash ourselves in that causes some of our problems or additives in certain foods we eat. Diprobase is excellent. I’ve tried lots of recommended brands of emollients and like you have allergies to parfum and fragrances so have to be particularly careful with anything new as manufacturers seem to want to put smelly stuff in just to sell the stuff. It’s a real nuisance. Good look Haroon. Best wishes Jenny

  12. You know what this is exactly what I was looking for to read. I have run out of steroid cream about 2 weeks ago and thought I’d just try and go all natural. Boy was that a bad decision. At the moment I basically have a full body rash from the top of my head down to my ankles. My face has been especially suffering this past week. I’m running low on my special dermatoligists prescribed creams for face, and I’m really remembering how I was before I got them. All in all, I wish I could use Aloe Vera, but for me just reading or thinking of that word makes me cringe. I’m pretty much allergic to anything and everything natural, and not to mention anything scented. The winter is really reminding me why it’s so bad for eczema, but then again so are all the rest of the seasons. I’ve tried and done everything, and not much has really worked. Well I haven’t tried but 1 thing…and that would be something I read in a book, but never really finished it. What it said really is starting to make complete sense to me. The book is called “Eat Right for your Blood Type”. I personally am an A+ blood type and it says that my body can really only digest anything vegetarian or natural food, and some meats. I’m really thinking that just by reading what all our blood types are and what we can eat, and if we follow it, we could be on to something. Believe me, I’m not one to eat healthy, well this past month at least. Before December I was eating a mostly vegetarian diet and saw that my skin was, dare I say “beautiful”. But since I stopped, I’ve really noticed the complete opposite affect. But hey, just a penny for your thoughts, I’m just a 19 kid trying to kick the thing that has been absolutely making me mostly miserable my whole life.

    • I have heard of the blood groups diet but never tried it. It’s worth a try but I would check with a dietician or nutritionist to make sure you are getting the nutrients and minerals etc. that your body needs. Also, have you tried to find out if any foods trigger your skin reactions? food is a big trigger for me. Good luck!

  13. Joan Wood says:

    I itch for you, my dear! I’ve always had some eczema, even as a child but nothing like the flare up I’ve had that’s lasted over a year. My mother used to tell me that when she was a kid, they had to bandage her legs as the eczema was so bad, and I couldn’t fathom that till I got this outbreak! I just moved to the country from the city about 3 years ago and that along with other stressors probably has caused this. I think it’s mainly environmental and food allergies, and probably the curse of the Pharoahs thrown in. At first lavish use of Aveeno (has anyone commented on the COST of eczema! – the ointments, bandages, tapes, creams, sterile pads, supplements, etc), controlled it. But then I ended up with these large patches on my legs, hand, arm, back (the worst), bosom, etc. What I found that finally has helped me with healing the skin is to applly a thin amount of steroid ointment and cover that with a goodly amount of petroleum jelly. Liberal amounts of petroleum jelly. Then I put a sterile pad over that and tape it all down. It’s a fashion statement! And if anyone asks, I burned myself making my latest gourmet meal! Anyway, it seems to be healing the skin, which was in terrible, oozing, cracking, flaking horror before I started. I am finally HOPEFUL!!! The maddening itch is still there, but that can sometimes be controlled by using ice or cold packs to deaden the nerve. Works at home at least but kind of hard to carry around…. Good luck fellow sufferers, and don’t give up! Spring is coming!

    • Hi Joan, damn those Pharaohs… I do hope you get some healing soon. Have you tried epsom salt baths? I put in a few teaspoons of tea tree oil but careful with that as some people cannot tolerate it. Soak in warm bath for 20 minutes. (I actually find a really hot bath more helpful but this is apparently not the done thing for eczema… I think it kind of scalds the pain and maybe even kills some of the germs which make it get so horrible. Good luck. PS. I am also cutting out processed foods – works wonders for my skin.

  14. I’d say find the things that trigger it , I found that eggs and dairy foods trigger mine so I’ve tries to eliminate them. It is hard but it’s worth it , hopefully I’ll be eczema free soon

    • Dairy, celery and tomatoes all trigger mine along with other worse reactions. I used to have terrible eczema as a child, which I now know was caused by dairy.

  15. Great article, some really useful stuff in there and I really sympathise as I have very similar symptoms. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Everybody is different in their triggers but in case it’s useful, one thing which sets me off without fail are herbal or green teas. These are often promoted by new age marketting as being the answer to every ailment on existence, where as to allergy sufferers they really can be an absolute minefield in terms of ingredients. Green tea in particular surprisingly has a relatively high caffeine content. For me it will without fail cause hives within 24 hours, whereas plain tea often causes slow but noticeable onset itching. Contrary to expectations espresso doesn’t affect me too much, surprisingly often having a lot less caffeine in than regular instant coffee which will set me off. Caffeine or other more subtle ingredients the cause I don’t know, but that’s just speaking from experience.

    Other things I’ve found that dramatically improved eczema were cutting out Alcohol, red wine and lager in particular along with any form of chilli or spice. Bread, sugar and eggs also make symptoms worse so try to keep those to a minimum.

    Loads of water is good, although definitely noticed a hives reaction to certain brands of bottled still mineral water – whether that is increased metal content or something in the processing I can only speculate.

    In the terms of moisturisers, most I’ve found do more harm than good, particularly with facial eczema.

    For me no gos are standard E45, Aqueous cream, 50/50 paraffin. They always end up either making the skin itch more or flake worse after use. I’ve given up on ointments completely as they seem to aggravate more than help.

    One thing that does seem to work well is E45 Intense recovery lotion (red top) which is hypoallergenic. Occasionally I’ll mix that with a little Elecon cream and spread that very thinly on affected patches or use it generally as a moisturiser. It’s cleared up really dry patches over 2 weeks usage.

    Fucibet good in small doses on infected areas.

    Antihistamines I try to moderate as conversely although they slow the itch, I’ve found loratadine in particular also noticeablely slows the eczema healing process by around three days or so. Whether that is because it’s interupring the skin’s over-reaction I couldn’t say.

    This is just what works for me (35 years of eczema having tried everything on offer), but hopefully helpful to someone.

    Long story short (call me a funster), but ideally no booze, no caffeine, no whacky teas, no spice, less sugar, less wheat, lots of water, lots of sleep, minimal steroids. Short warm showers, dermal 600 baths to clear infected spots. Elvitrex/Nizoral shampoo for scalp flares, hypoallergenic moisturiser. A little sun now and then, and saltwater seems beneficial.

  16. I suffered with eczema as a child, it went away and came back about 2 years ago when I lost my older brother in a motorcycle accident, I’m only 18 now, was 16 at the time and stressed beyond belief, I’ve had so many different eczema creams, my skin almost builds up a resistance to them after prolonged use. I have no idea what causes the flare ups but winter is always an issue because of the constant temperature changes. I found that using Nivea Cream helps a LOT, I used to have it just on my inner elbows and I luckily only get dry, red inflamed skin, no cracking or blisters but it spread to my knee, inner thighs, further up and down my arms, my back, front and back of my neck and my face. This Nivea Cream is perfect, I’d suggest using a wide or wetting and dabbing your skin before applying so it spreds easier and it’s not exactly the cheapest but it works, had no irritants in it and does a good job, I also heard extra virgin coconut oil works well, I’ll have to try it out even though I hate coconut!

  17. Hi- Thank you so much for this post! Until I read this, I thought no one had ever experienced what I go through. Everything you posted pertains to me including the wrists, eyelids, etc and the whole deal about sweat during exercise causing too much pain. I found myself in a major flare today, my 1st in over 6 months and I am so depressed. Not even sure when I will be able to get in to see my Derm at Yale.

    • No you are never alone, it just seems like everyone else you see has normal skin doesn’t it? One of the hardest things to live with as a woman I think. Not that men don’t find it hard too, but women are judged far more on their appearance. Sending you soothing thoughts. Hope it clears soon. Ruth

  18. Simon Taylor says:

    Very interesting article. Its always comforting to read about others going through similar issues. Im currently going through the worst period of eczema i’ve ever had in my life. For the past 14 months i’ve had a thick, red, uncomfortable rash from my neck down to my feet. It’s extremely itchy and sore and its affecting everything in my day to day routine. Im not able to play with my 2 young boys like i usually would and i’ve had to sleep on the couch for the past year as i don’t want to disrupt my wife’s sleep (we have a 9 month old baby so its disrupted enough as it is). Today is particularly bad as i fell asleep in my thick dressing gown which caused me to sweat a lot and made me scratch. It literally like i’ve been mauled by a tiger on my back and shoulders and the back of my knees are that painful i’m having to walk without bending my legs (actually looks quite funny to passers by).

    At least once a month my face, mainly eyelids, will swell up as well. It doesn’t get particularly dry or painful, just swollen and uncomfortable.

    In the past year i’ve had about 7 courses of prednisone which gives me about 5 days of relief but the day after i stop the steroids it comes right back. Steroid creams barely do anything anymore and my skin is permanently damaged from all the steroids and might never heal properly again.

    Pink salt baths at the end of each day provide some relief combined with doublebase gel or QV intensive moisturizer. These leave my skin feeling quite greasy / sticky tho and really gets to me in work.

    Im convinced mine is caused by an allergy / intolerance to something as i’d been eczema free for around 10 years. One morning i just woke up with a small rash on my arm and a slightly puffy eye. Since then its just got worse and worse.

    At the moment i’ve been dairy and Gluton free for 4 weeks with no change. I have a decent diet and drink fresh fruit / veg juices every morning with various other health supplements. For all the good these things do it only takes one bad night (like last night) to bring it back to its worst.

    Im 30 years old now and should be enjoying my time with the kids but instead i feel like i have a disability. If i wasn’t surrounded by people in work i could quite easily burst out into tears…

    • Hi Simon, sorry to hear your eczema is getting worse. Have you looked into topical steroid addiction and withdrawal? It doesn’t make for very nice reading but it does give me hope. I’m looking into this too myself and may be trying it. Not an easy ride, but the steroids CAN produce a reaction every time you stop using them that is similar to eczema, but it will never stop as long as we keep using the steroids. It’s a vicious cycle of destruction. Watch out for future blogs on this. I’m not looking forward to it but it could be the answer… Google ITSAN and topical steroid withdrawal and sit down – it can take months or even years to detox from these nasty steroids. I wish I’d never had any now. Makes me very cross. They seemed like a miracle cure, until the stop working and you get a stronger one, and a stronger one. Now we’re all hooked!

      • Simon Taylor says:

        Thanks for the reply Ruth, after much research i’m convinced i’m going through TSW right now. Since my last post i’ve stopped all steroids / steroid creams and i’ve pretty much got every symptom associated with TSW. The worst part is the shaking / muscle spasms and the constant too hot / cold feeling. Right now i’m sat in work (the office is bang on room temp 22.5 deg) and i’m shaking uncontrollably. Ive also got deep red skin all over my body and what seems to be swelling in my lower legs. This is definitely one of the worst things i’ve ever been through. Once again thank you for the nudge to the ITSAN site. At least i know now what the issue is.

  19. I’m 30 years old. My eczema started when I was 15 years old as a small rash on my shin. Eventually it grew and the itching gotten worse. Today I have eczema all over my body except for my face. It’s very hard to live with it. It gets very itchy. I hope there will be a cure someday

    • Eczema sucks doesn’t it. You might like to check out the two ebooks that are available on the site, both can be found in the side menu bar on the right of any page on the website. One is called 10 Eczema secrets your doctor won’t tell you and the other is a guy in America’s story about how he worked out what was causing his. The problem with eczema is that we are all different, so what triggers yours will be totally different to what triggers mine, but eczema can become very sensitive to lots of things like harsh skin care products, soap, fragrances, allergens etc. It’s a life long journey I think. But thank goodness you don’t have any on your face. Hope I am not tempting fate and hope you find something to help soon. There are loads of blogs here about eczema so keep following and subscribe to the newsletter.

  20. I found this information the best ive found in a while. I’ve had eczema for two years and I’m 26 . I think it stemmed from severe stress and never went . Since then I would say I was 95% covered in eczema- this was the case until the only parts of my body not affected ( hands and feet) came up in small blisters – another form of eczema . However the hands and feet seem to be getting better – but the rest of my body not – I’m sick of the Ararax to help me sleep but just knocks me out for the morning – I wake nearly every hour in the night. I scratch constantly at night I’ve tried sleeping wth the windows open . I’ve tried everything and nothing works – nothing triggers my eczema its always just there . Epiderm and steroid creams also tricloderms as well keep the bad flare ups away but I can never but moisture back in the skin and it’s always painfully painfully dry. They are sending me for light therapy but that’s only a possibility . But that’s 3 months away just for the consultation .
    I can’t cope
    It’s the lack of sleep
    I feel like im failing – I’m so so sad and I just don’t know what to do anymore . It’s not living

    • Gary Griffith says:

      Alice, I feel sorry for you. Compared to you my eczema is nothing. My only suggestion is when I get really bad patches where the itching drives my crazy I put a lot Noxzema on it and whit in minutes the itching is gone or much better. The last time I got a haircut from a barber my scalp was itching so bad I smeared Noxzema all over my scalp and it really helped. Most people don’t know Noxzema was named to mean “No Eczema”. Neither my Doctor or my Dermatologist knew that Noxzema helps.

      Best of luck.


  1. […] bearing her soul about how totally miserable it is to have a bad eczema flare up. (Read her post here.) As she says, she often talks about her allergies (anaphylactic to nuts and milk and possibly […]

  2. […] How do you cope with an eczema flare up? […]

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