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Allergy Today: Tips for Managing Eczema in Summer

Heat, humidity and increased sun exposure can make it hard to manage eczema in summer.

The key is to follow your eczema management plan, have plenty of creams or emollients on hand, and keep up with regular moisturising. On top of that, here are four tips to help make sure the summer sun and sand don’t leave your skin worse for wear.jason-blackeye-R5rVLQZ8hG8-unsplash-531

Keep cool, particularly at night. Heat can irritate eczema-prone skin and make the itch worse.

- If possible, keep the bedroom cool or use a fan. A sheet and light cotton pyjamas are often sufficient for bedding.

- Emollient can be kept in the fridge. Applying it after a cool shower or bath can help when skin is particularly hot and irritated.

- Antihistamines may help with itch and sleep. Discuss this with your doctor.

Strenuous exercise and activities can cause sweat, which irritates the skin and causes flares.

- Exercise or play sport in the coolest part of the day and/or choose a sport that is less strenuous.

- Choose light cotton clothing.

Swimming is possible for most people with eczema but some precautions need to be taken to avoid inflaming skin.

- Use moisturisers and topical steroids to keep eczema in control on the days before going swimming. This will help reduce stinging when you first get in the water. Salt water is less aggravating than a chlorine swimming pool.

- Apply moisturiser before getting in the water, rinse well with fresh water after you get out, and re-apply moisturiser.

- Do not go swimming if you have a skin infection, as you could spread the infection.

Sun protection is critical, particularly to avoid sunburn and risk of skin cancers in later life.

- Slip on clothing to cover the main areas that will be exposed to the sun. Shirts that cover the shoulders are better than singlets. Rash shirts should be worn whenever swimming outside.

- Use plenty of sunscreen. A broad-spectrum with SPF-30 or more, is best. Re-apply every two to four hours, if outdoors. However, sun creams are not designed to be applied to broken skin and can irritate. It is not recommended that they are applied to areas of active eczema (red or rough-feeling skin) – cover with clothing if possible.

- Reflectant sun creams (containing zinc or titanium) may sting less than gels or sprays. Patch test new sunscreens on a small area of the body before applying over your whole body.

- Seek shade wherever possible and plan outdoor activities in the early morning and late afternoon when the UV index is at its lowest.

- Wear a hat that provides shade to the face, neck and ears. For infants, a soft fabric hat that will crumple when they lie down on it is best.

- For infants and young children, choose a stroller that has a shade cover.

- Wear sunglasses that protect the eyes from UV light.

Taken from ‘Sun, Sand & Skin: Don’t let eczema stop your fun this summer’ (Allergy Today, Summer 2015) by Dr Diana Purvis, Paediatric Dermatologist, Starship Children’s Hospital.

Allergy Today, December 2020