How To Stop Scratching Eczema

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How Do I Stop Scratching Eczema?

If you suffer with eczema for some time, scratching is likely to turn from being a symptom into a cause. Studies show that even in people with normal skin, persistent scratching eventually causes the skin to erupt into eczema.

Scratching Includes:

* Rubbing the itch directly or through your clothes, using your hand, chin, leg or any other part of your body.
* Touching or picking at the skin.
* Rubbing again your bed linen, furniture or another person.
* Using a towel, hairbrush or flannel to rub your skin.

All of these actions can become habit, you may not even be aware you are doing it. You could even be scratching your skin although there is no itch. Scratching without itching can be
down to habit, stress, anxiety or even a form of emotional expression. Scratching alone can set off an itch, which starts a vicious eczema cycle.

How To Stop Scratching

1. Awareness

First, become aware how often you scratch. Doctors at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London issue their patients little hand-held counting devices (tally-counters), and
ask them to press the button on the device every time they scratch or rub. Over a period of days, patients discover - usually to their own amazement - just how often they do scratch. The point of the exercise is simply to become conscious of the scratching impulse, and to notice the situations which typically provoke scratching. You could use a notebook to achieve the same result.

2. Break The Habit

Next, break the scratching habit. This method, called habit reversal, was developed by a Swedish dermatologist. It takes about 2 to 4 weeks but the effects are long-term, so worth
the effort.

What To Do: Habit Reversal

* When you are about to start scratching, do something with your hands - for example, clench your fists and breath deeply. Think non-itchy thoughts! The urge may pass.
* If the urge does not pass, pinch the itchy area gently or press your finger nail into it, or lightly apply a moisturizer.
* Never use flannels or rub the skin in the bath or shower. Dry off with soft towels.
* The aim is to get your scratching fits down to 10 episodes a day or less.
* Hypnosis and other stress management techniques can also help.

Itch Stopper: New Device

A new device called the Itch Stopper has been approved by the FDA for the 'prompt stopping of skin itching for up to 24 hours'. This device acts like a handheld heat pad, it is applied directly to the affected area and can stop itching in under 1 minute. It costs about $60.

How To Stop Night Time Eczema Itching

By breaking the habit of day-time itching, you will also be less inclined to scratch during your sleep. There are other things you can do as well to avoid skin irritation at night:

1. Keep your bedroom cool, so you don't sweat.
2. Use natural-fiber sheets and bed clothes.
3. Apply moisturizer at least 20 minutes before going to bed to allow it to soak in.
4. Remove pollen from your bedroom, see: how to avoid pollen at home.

Sunlight And Sunbeds/Tanning Beds

Sunlight is often beneficial, because it dampens the inflammatory processes in the skin, making a flare-up less likely. However, not everyone improves with sun exposure - some get worse. Careful experimentation is the only way to find out if it's a help to you. Gradually build up the amount of time you spend in the sun, starting with less than an hour a day and wear a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.

Medical treatment with UV (ultraviolet) light can produce the same effect as sunshine and suppress inflammation. Talk to your doctor before using a sunbed/tanning bed, although he
may recommend a few sessions. You will need to moisturize well after a session. As there are other risks associated with sunbeds, this is not a long-term option.

In PUVA (psoralen combined with ultraviolet A) treatment, a plant-derived substance called psoralen is given by mouth, or applied to the skin, to enhance the response to UV light.

Related Questions

What Is Eczema? Understanding the basics.
Do I Have Eczema? Symptom-checker.

Treatment For Eczema

What is the treatment for eczema? 5 Important Steps.
How to moisturize your skin if you have eczema. Practical guide.
What is the best moisturizer for eczema? Approved creams and lotions.

• Got another question? See: Allergy Questions

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