Eczema: How to treat it and avoid flare-ups

HOUSTON – More than 30 million Americans suffer from eczema, an incurable and non-contagious skin disease. 

Patients experience constant itch and flares of inflammation that can interfere with sleep and participation in everyday life activities.  

Genetics predisposes kids like Sydney Bentley to eczema, an itchy skin inflammation that can sometimes keep kids up all night.

“We would put gauze all over her midsection and tape it up, because otherwise we couldn't keep her from scratching,” Sydney’s mother said.

Eczema mostly begins in childhood with a wide spread flare-up. Advanced Dermatology in Katy said it's a lifelong disease but understanding what causes it and how to treat it is getting better.

Treatments can reduce to symptoms but in Houston, we encounter the triggers every day:

  • Pollutants
  • Allergens
  • Harsh chemicals
  • Diet: artificial ingredients, high sugar

Dr. Sherry Ingraham said some new research shows taking a daily probiotic and using gentle, soap-free cleansers can help.

“Soap is the enemy of healthy skin. It makes the skin function at a basic pH and the skin barrier functions at an acidic pH. So, you want to look for synthetic cleansers: Cerave, Cetaphil, Aveeno Eczema Therapy, are all excellent soap-free cleansers,” Ingraham said.

When shopping for them, she said to look for the ingredient ceramide and ask your doctor about prescriptions without a steroid to avoid side effects.

“They [steroids] can thin and lighten the skin with chronic use,” Ingraham said. “If we can pulse these steroids with steroid-free options, we get a better outcome.”

New injections and even a bacteria spray are undergoing tests to someday improve the disease. Sydney was part of a clinical trial for one and says it wasn't a cure but it helped better control her eczema.

“I don't want other kids to have to go through this,” Sydney said.

Eczema is not something that you outgrow, according to Ingraham. However, it can go away and reappear as an adult. When it comes back, she said, it commonly appears in smaller spots like your hands.