UT University Health Services


What is eczema?

Eczema is a skin problem. Your skin may:
  • Itch.
  • Feel and look dry.
  • Flake or scale.
  • Look red.

How does it happen?

You may get eczema when:

  • There is a change in the weather or humidity, especially when it gets dry.
  • You eat some kinds of foods.
  • You take some kinds of medicines.

If you have asthma or hay fever, you may get eczema often.

Eczema often runs in families.

What are the symptoms?

If you have mild eczema, you may have patches of dry, scaly skin on your arms or legs. It may itch.

If the eczema is bad, you may have painful itching. You may itch, especially on the:

  • Fronts of your elbows.
  • Backs of your knees.
  • Face.

It may bother you to:

  • Be touched.
  • Wear scratchy fabrics, such as wool.

Eczema often gets worse in the winter when indoor air can be very dry.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will:

  • Look at your skin.
  • Ask about your history and your family's history of rashes.
  • Ask about other problems you or your family may have, like allergies or asthma.

How is it treated?

For mild eczema:

  • You may not need any treatment.
  • You can try 1% hydrocortisone cream. You can buy this at the store. Put it on the area 2 to 4 times a day.

Severe eczema can be harder to treat. You may find it helpful to:

  • Take antihistamines to stop the itching. Some antihistamines can be bought at a store without a prescription. For others you will need a prescription.
  • Use steroid creams prescribed by your provider.
  • Prevent dryness by putting moisturizing cream or ointment on your skin.
  • Reduce dust mites in your home.

Ask your healthcare provider if allergy shots might help you.

How can I take care of myself?

Use antihistamines. Antihistamine pills can help you itch less.

  • Some antihistamines will make you sleepy, so it is best to take them at bedtime.
  • Some antihistamines do not make you sleepy, so you can take them day or night.

Use steroid creams. Steroid creams or ointments can help your rash and itching. Your healthcare provider will tell you how to use this medicine. Do not use the cream more often than your provider tells you.

Be sure to use medicines exactly the way your healthcare provider prescribed them.

Put cream or ointment on your skin. Use moisturizing cream or ointment, rather than water-based lotion, many times a day.

Don't take long, hot baths.

  • Take short baths or showers no more than once a day.
  • Do not use really hot water.
  • Put moisturizer on your skin right after bathing. Examples of good moisturizers are Eucerin, Aquaphor, and Cetaphil.

Try not to scratch the eczema.

You could scratch the skin open and get an infection. If you think your skin might be infected, call your healthcare provider to see if you need treatment for an infection.

What can I do to prevent eczema?

To prevent mild eczema, you may need to:

  • Stay away from some kinds of foods if they make your eczema worse.
  • Stay away from some kinds of medicines if they make your eczema worse.

Severe eczema is an inherited problem. We do not know how to prevent this kind of eczema. Because it may flare up when you are stressed, it may help to try to have less stress in your life. When a flare-up happens, follow your healthcare provider's advice to get the eczema back under control. See your provider if it is not getting better.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All Rights Reserved.

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