Ask the Expert

Tips and Tricks to Treat Eczema At Home

By Apr 29, 2011May 13th, 201255 Comments

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Jen from Buried With Children is back today with tips and tricks on how to treat excema at home. If you or your kids suffer from itchy, scratchy, irritated skin, this post is a definite must read.

To submit your questions to Jen, our resident expert on health, be sure to visit the SITS Girls Forum.


Itchy, itchy. Scratch, scratch. “Mom! My skin is all itchy, make it stop.”

This is something that I commonly hear from my oldest child, Hayden. He suffers from eczema and has since he was a small baby.

And based on the question that occurred in the SITS forums on this subject, I know that I am not the only mommy that hears this from her kids. Itchy, scratchy skin is something many of you are dealing with too.

Eczema is a term that refers to a variety of conditions where the skin becomes reddened, inflamed and itchy. The most common type of eczema is called Atopic Dermatitis (atopic meaning an inherited tendency to develop allergic disorders and dermatitis meaning inflamed, reddened, sore skin.)

People who suffer from eczema lack a protein in their genetic make up that allows the skin to keep moisture in it. So when exposed to an allergen trigger, the person will develop itchy, inflamed, reddened and sometimes painful spots on their skin.

Eczema is actually most common in children who will usually out grow the symptoms. The disorder especially runs in families with a history of suffering from asthma, seasonal allergies and eczema.

One of the best ways to treat eczema is to stop it before it starts. This is why prevention is best. Besides allergen triggers, the thing that can make eczema worse is dry skin. Since eczema sufferers have skin that has a difficult time retaining moisture, it is important to replace that moisture.

One of the primary causes of dry skin is living in a dry climate —  for example, in the winter where I live it gets really, really dry. There is a decease in humidity in the air, which can lead to dry skin. Another major cause of eczema is over exposure to water by either bathing too often with drying, harsh soaps or swimming.

To prevent flare ups of eczema, the simplest things you can do is get a humidifier for your house to replace moisture in the air and apply creams and lotions that will replace the skin’s moisture and protect the skin.


Now, there are a lot of lotions and creams on the market. Heck, in our grocery stores there are aisles and aisles lined with bottles and bottles of creams. So which one do you choose?

You want a mild, non-scented, dye and perfume free moisturizer that is, most importantly, alcohol free. Most moisturizers are made with alcohol, which is actually terrible for the eczema patient’s skin because it will dry it out more. Some good choices include: Cetaphil Cream and Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream. The one I personally found works well is Aveeno Eczema Therapy. These creams should be used immediately after exposure to water or once a day and more often as needed.

It is also important to use soaps and cleansers that are mild and free of dyes and perfumes.

To treat those red, patchy areas on the skin, a steroid cream is usually needed. Over the counter creams can work, but often, something more is needed. That’s why it’s important to work with your family doctor and, if possible, get a referral to see a dermatologist who can prescribe more effective creams.

As I said earlier, the cause of eczema is two fold: an inability to retain moisture and allergens. Eczema flare ups are usually caused by some sort of allergen trigger from the environment. The trick is to find out what that trigger is and get rid of it. It could be something the person or child is eating, the family pet, a certain flower in your garden or the carpet in your house. This is where working with your family physician and/or dermatologist can be very helpful. If needed, they can perform allergy testing and possibly add medication that can lower the amount of histamine (a chemical produced when exposed to an allergen) the body produces.

In summary, preventive care and getting rid of possible allergens is usually the best way to keep the itchy eczema symptoms at bay. But if this is not working, seeing a dermatologist is probably that next best step.

Here is a short list of things you can do to help control you or your child’s environmental triggers:

  • Control the temperature, keep it cool.
  • Keep the humidity above 40%, if possible. Set up a humidifier in the sufferer’s room.
  • Avoid perfumes, deodorant sprays and insecticides.
  • Avoid air pollutants in the home like cigarette smoke and animal dander. Vacuum often to limit exposure to dust mites.
  • Wear well-washed cotton clothes.
  • Do not use hot water for cleaning. Tepid is best.
  • Avoid excessive sweating.
  • Avoid fabric softener sheets and use liquids instead.
  • Investigate for food allergies. Common ones include: eggs, milk, chocolate, cereals, fish, citrus and nuts.
  • Restrict the use of harsh soaps.
  • Spot cleaning like washing the face, hands and groin is better than bathing or showering every day.

This treatment has worked at keeping my son’s eczema under control for me. I urge you to talk to your doctor about these things and, if possible, to try some of these tips. What do you have to lose beside dry, itchy, painful skin?

Eczema comes in various levels of severity. This post is by no means meant to tell you how to treat severe eczema. It merely provides helpful home care tips. It is always best to discuss a change in skin care routine or beginning a skin care routine with your personal family physician.

About Francesca

Francesca has an extensive background in content marketing, public relations, and social outreach. She oversees all Operations at Sway Group, including our robust metrics capabilities. Prior to joining the online world, Francesca oversaw viticulture and oenology at various wineries in both California and Italy, and managed regulatory affairs and facility approvals at the biotech company, Genentech. Francesca has been featured on CBS Sacramento and Food Blogger Pro’s podcast. She has also hosted an AMA webinar and spoken at Social Media World.


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  • Creams, oils and lotions treat the symptoms of eczema – dry, itchy patches – not the cause. Eczema is caused by yeast overgrowth in the intestines and the only way to get rid of eczema is to get rid of the overgrowth. I wrote an easy-to-read ebook on Eczema Home Treatments detailing what makes a good remedy.

    I’m living proof you don’t have to live with eczema.

    Hope this helps,

  • mangiabella says:

    products have so much to do with it, I have found arbonne to be incredible, and also washing clothing with legacy of clean laundry products –

  • Good info.
    My son has eczema and a peanut allergy. As a toddler, he was allergic to oats so we couldn’t use Aveeno lotions. The thing that worked the best was plain coconut oil. We also use “ALL free and clear” laundry detergent. …and kept his nails trimmed short.
    I remember we had to buy him footed pajama bottoms so he wouldn’t scratch behind his knees and ankles IN HIS SLEEP! He’d scratch til he bleed…and then keep scratching. The olive oil was a blessing!

  • Melissa says:

    Thanks for the tips! You’re right about the Cetaphil, and we’ve also had luck with Eucerin in our family.

  • I don’t have eczema, but feel like I’ve been reaching for the moisturizer like crazy lately!

  • Jean says:

    I know I am so late to this party, but liked Jen’s advice. My sons suffer from bad eczema, especially my 2 year old, and switching to a “green” detergent, body wash, and lotion made all the difference. We also use a green ointment on bad flair up spots and it is usually gone in 24 hours.

  • Angela says:

    I have dealt with the eczema beast with my oldest son who is now 9 since birth. When he was little, his pediatrician recommended Aquaphor ointment after bathing. That stuff is nothing short of a miracle for my son. I would apply it after his bath before bed since it is greasy I didn’t want it on his clothes but pjs and sheets were fine with me. I used it for many years with great success. Alas, the boy is growing and I have to battle with the dry boy to put lotion on now many times per day. I do love aquaphor and cetaphil. I also keep Sarna itch lotion in the refrigerator (tip from a dermatologist) for those really itchy moments. Stay away from steroid creams unless absolutely necessary and only use them for a short period of time or it will end up making it worse (again….from several dermatologists). I also like the Aveeno oatmeal bath packets when he is itchy…..if I can get him to take a bath instead of a shower. I only use oatmeal soaps too.

  • Our daughter has eczema. We found a solution about a year ago. We use essential oils. Lavender and Melaleuca. I wrote about it here. It has specific instructions for use.


  • Charlotte says:

    I tend to get very dry, itchy skin, especially in the winter, so these are some really important tips to keep in mind. And thanks for the skin care recommendations! I will be checking these out for sure!

  • Charlotte says:

    I tend to get very dry, itchy skin, especially in the winter, so these are some really important tips to keep in mind. And thanks for the skin care recommendations! I will be checking these out for sure!

  • Sarah says:

    My son had a bit of this but it has since gone away. If he had eczema as a baby, I wonder if it is likely to show up again later in life. Anyone know the answer to that?

  • luci gabel says:

    I had eczema when I was young… and still dealing with some forms of it now. My skin is dry (a classic redhead characteristic) and it’s oh, so, sensitive!

    I can’t seem to figure out what I do to offend it. It hates any Aveeno product… especially the ones for sensitive skin! It also hates sunscreen – which is such a bummer because I just have to grin and bear it in the summer sun (bumps or burn? hmmm..)

    I recently learned that there are people allergic to titanium dioxide which I’m pretty sure it’s me because all sensitive sunscreens have pretty much nothing but that and my skin rejects it like crazy.
    Oh well, Such is my plight to figure out my own skin!

  • Gena Lazcano says:

    I recently read that Vitamin D helps some eczema and bananas can trigger it. My son has horrible, horrible exzema and it seems like it’s better if he gets outside in the sunlight!

    Also, Burt’s Bees products are working wonderfully for my younger son!

  • vivi b. says:

    I’ve not had any skin problems so far, but these tips would definitely come in handy in case! Thanks for the info!


  • Hi Francesca, I’m so happy that you’re bringing up this topic because I think it’s something many people struggle with, but just don’t know where to turn. I’ve been dealing with eczema since I was 11 (I’m 33 now). It can get pretty severe and I was always told I would be on steroid cream the rest of my life. I’m not anymore. I wholeheartedly agree that prevention is the best measure when it comes to eczema and many other conditions people struggle with today. However, I have to disagree with some of your suggestions. According to the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, both of the creams you recommend include Cetearyl Alcohol as one of the ingredients as well as some other harmful chemicals. I personally would not use them on my skin or my children’s skin (my older daughter suffered from eczema as well until I changed our lifestyle). It’s very important to read the ingredients in all skincare products you use and actually educate yourself about what you’re putting on your skin. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a huge offender with eczema, but that’s just one of many, many chemicals I’d avoid. Please, please educate yourself before putting ANYTHING on your skin.

  • Trianna says:

    My son is 4 and has papular eczema. So he always looks like he has the chicken pox! I use a heavy cream like Eucerin or Lubriderm. A trick I use is to dab (not rub) his skin dry after bathing him and then leave a thick layer of cream (not lotion) on him. Then a bit of Benadryl and off to bed. He gets to sleep through the night and by morning the irritation has decreased.

    I’m definitely going to try spot cleaning and the humidifier. Great tips! Thanks!

  • Leah Rubin says:

    My heart truly goes out to anyone with this problem… I know it’s frustrating and aggravating! Glad there are tips to help make it less difficult!

  • Renee W. says:

    Great info – runs in my family too…

  • Bonnie says:

    My friend’s two great-nieces suffer with eczema. I’m going to pass this on to her and see if these tips can help. Thanks!

  • Stefanie says:

    FANTASTIC post! Love that you talked about both the causes and what you can do to help control some of the triggers! Would love if you would consider guest posting on our site sometime 🙂
    Thanks again!

  • Savannah says:

    Great tips, my son has had severe eczema ever since he was only a few months old, it seems like nothing has helped. The poor little guy is constantly itching! I hope someday he grows out of this!!!

  • I also love the Aveeno and use it after my son’s bath every evening. Great tips! Now…any advice for adult psoriasis? 🙂

    • Angela says:

      Enbrel…..nothing short of amazing for my Hubs. He was in the trial studies for Raptiva (the drug out before Enbrel) many many moons ago. Enbrel then came out and was supposed to be easier on his body than the Raptiva. He was originally covered in Psoriasis on 86% of his body but went into remission. It has reoccurred but only to about 25% and he hopes to get back on the Enbrel when we get insurance again since without insurance it is CRAZY expensive. He also uses aquaphor, many oils and tries to get as much sunlight as possible.

  • My three year old could really benefit from implementing these. I NEED to get her to an allergist, no doubt!

  • lisa fogarty says:

    my son is always itching he has NF1 but this may help.. thanks.. dr.’s couldn’t tell me.. but we vaccum a lot, don’t smoke… and try not to use…. sprays and such..

  • Eva Gallant says:

    Good tips, there.

    Good Morning, SITStahs! Hope everyone is having a good weekend.

    Stop by my blog for some Saturday Silliness….especially if you need a smile!

  • Marylee says:

    May I mention another lotion that two dermatologists have recommended to me? CERA-VE. Alas, I can’t remember what it was about that one that makes it unique… something about restoring the skin barrier, maybe? Anyway, I use it daily and it’s excellent. Now they have added facial creams to their line–AM and PM. The AM contains zinc as part of its sunscreen… again, something the dermatologist said was necessary.

    Also, Dove soap.

  • Great tips thanks for sharing that info!

    Have a blissful weekend, evryone!

    Betty xx

  • Great tips, thanks for this info.

    Hope you have a blissful weekend!
    Betty xx

  • kristeta says:

    Great tips, thanks. My son (2 next month) has eczema. He’s already using a moisturizer prescribed by the doctors and steroid when there are flare ups. We have a humidifier at home that he use when he’s got colds but never really thought of using it daily for his eczema. It makes sense as his skin was great when we went to the Philippines for 3 weeks. We shall try this and hopefully it works.

    Thanks a lot! =)

  • Pam says:

    These are things I would have loved to have known about 40 yrs ago when mine was flared up so bad. I have had it since I was a small child. Had a brother that suffered from asthma and later in life at the age of 32 I developed it. I only suffer every now and a again from it. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks for this. My toddler has had eczema since he was 6 months old and it was pretty bad the initial months. We pinned it down to sensitivity to dairy and as I was still breastfeeding, went on the elimination diet. I slowly reintroduced dairy back into my diet when he was 11 months old, and he seems to be doing well. He has some small flare-ups every so often, but it clears quickly with prescribed hydrocortisone cream and a lot of moisturizing! I love Cetaphil’s products, as they work very well with him.

  • I had eczema as a child and 2 of my kids have had it as well. My youngest, now 2, has it very badly. We have a whole drawer of various creams – both over the counter and prescribed. We finally saw a pediatric specialist in dermatology at U of M this past winter and have a strict regiment for his skin. Its not great but his skin is definitely better than it was. Now that he is old enough – the best thing we have is Ellidel – a prescribed, non-steroid cream that has helped keep it at bay. When it flares up badly, we resort to steroids but he need some pretty strong stuff to get it to settle down. Prevention is definitely the key!

    • Angela says:

      I have dealt with Eczema for many many years with my oldest. He was prescribed Elidel when he was 5; however, I never used it when I read the giant bold red warning at the top of the prescription packet saying it could cause cancer/leukemia in young children. I normally ignore those things since in trial studies if a patient sneezes alot then they have to list sneezing as a side effect. Not judging or saying to stop using it but it scared the crap out of me enough never to use it but then again everything seems to cause cancer nowadays!

  • Some great tips! My 2nd child, who is now 23, had it terribly when she was young. We figured out she was allergic to the new carpet we had just put down as well as grass. As a baby and toddler, we tried to keep her covered from the neck down.
    My granddaughter has it pretty bad and I had heard alsoto try natural cocnut oil (almost like a vaseline consistency) but they have not tried it yet.

  • Lisa Cater says:

    My youngest daughter had atopic dermatitis as a small child – we always used a cream moisturizer that did not contain lanolin (wool sensitivity) and when she had scaly areas used a tiny amount of cortisone ointment (ointments stick better than creams) and we always avoided anything with a lot of ingredients. The fewer ingredients, the better off she would be so that she did not develop allergies to them.
    I also always bought clothing that was cotton – she still wears mostly cotton fabrics and cannot wear acrylics or wool (at 20 years old).

  • Nicole says:

    My Juju (soon to be 5) had eczema since birth (he came out with scratches all over his face). Its has gotten soooo much better since I started using bag balm on him after a shower, before going to bed. He has seasonal allergies and claritin seems to help with those and keeps him from feeling itchy.

  • stephany says:

    My daughter has had eczema since she was a tiny baby (she is now almost 2). We recently had her tested for food sensitivity and found she has a whole wheat/gluten sensitivity and a dairy sensitivity. Since we are feeding her less of these foods (and plan to cut out whole wheat/gluten completely) her skin has been much better. I also am giving her Claritin for seasonal allergies and probiotics. All seem to help in clearing her symptoms up!
    Thanks for sharing your information!

  • My youngest, Ellerie, has an egg and peanut allergy and she has eczema too. (I think that is why she loves to be naked soooooo much. No clothes to irritate her skin.) When she gets flare ups, we use the prescription hydrocortisone cream and vaseline and cover her head to toe. She is a grease ball. Then we put on cotton PJs and put her to bed. Usually by the next morning she has relief. The doc also recommended a dose of Benadryl at night on flare up nights.:)

  • Young Mother says:

    Since putting a humidifier in our home, my eczema and my daughter’s have improved greatly. I get bad eczama on my hands, and one thing that really helps is to put cream on at night and wear cotton gloves while I sleep.
    Thanks for the good tips.

  • Brandi. says:

    Thank you for this! My daughter has suffered from Eczema since she was a baby {she’s 4 now} and it’s difficult to find things that help. I LOVE Aveeno! And thanks for the humidifier suggestion. I was thinking of getting one to help with all our colds, great to know it could help her skin too. 🙂