by Nicole Ratto

As many people living with eczema know, eczema can often interfere with daily activities, or, at the very least, be a constant discomfort.  According to the National Eczema Association, over 31.6 million people are affected eczema. 10% of all children show eczema symptoms, yet a large part of the world’s population is under-informed about its causes and irritants. Well, wonder no more! TruKid is here to provide a brief and basic explanation about the causes, symptoms, and common treatments for this very irritating skin condition.   The Skin’s Structure: Before we go into detail about eczema and its effects on the skin, it might be helpful to first understand how our skin works. Our skin is made up of three layers and consists of three main elements: water, fats, and oils. These three elements help the skin to retain moisture and maintain a healthy consistency that protects against infections and damage. The thin top layer of skin produces new cells as it sheds old skin cells. The second, middle layer houses sweat glands and nerve receptors. Lastly, the fatty third layer helps to control your body temperature, absorbs shock, and protects the body and internal organs from external impact. The fats and oils in our skin help to retain moisture, thus it strengthens the skin and protects it from external elements like the sun’s rays, bacteria, and other harmful substances.   What Does Eczema Affected Skin Look Like? Most often, skin affected by eczema is unable to produce as many fats and oils as healthier skin. When this happens, gaps in the skin’s barrier appear and it makes it difficult for the skin to retain moisture. Eczema, therefore, prevents the skin’s protective barrier from protecting the skin from outer elements and the skin can become red, itchy, dry, and cracked. The eczema rash is different for each person and may affect different parts of the body at any one time. Each individual will have a different look and severity of eczema rash on their body.   What Causes Eczema? Doctors have not come to one conclusion on the cause of eczema, as the exact causes are unknown. Some doctors believe that it is linked to hay fever and asthma, as many children with eczema (up to 80%) will develop one of these two allergic diseases.   What Things Should Someone with Eczema Avoid? According to the National Eczema Association, many common eczema irritants are: - Soaps and detergents - Shampoos, dish-washing liquids - Bubble Bath - Disinfectants like chlorine - Contact with juices from fresh fruits, meats, and vegetables   In addition, hot weather, high and low humidity, and sweat from exercise can cause eczema flare ups. Atopic eczema, a form of eczema which tends to start in early childhood, is thought to be caused by food allergens such as: - Dairy Products - Eggs - Nuts and seeds - Soy products - Wheat   As with the rashes themselves, the irritants that affect one person may not affect another. Talk to your doctor to determine specifically what precautions you should take to avoid further irritation!   So, What Should I do to Treat Eczema? As recommended by the National Eczema Association: - Moisturize daily - Take lukewarm baths and showers, using mild soap or non-soap cleanser - Gently pat (don’t rub!) your skin dry with a soft towel - Apply moisturizer immediately after bathing to “lock in” moisture - If possible, avoid rapid changes of temperature and activities that cause sweating - Don’t scratch! It causes a vicious cycle that only get’s itchier!   For more information on all things eczema, visit the National Eczema Association’s website in addition to the National Eczema Society’s site. Links are below.