Eczema is a skin condition that causes the skin to become itchy, red, dry and cracked. Although atopic eczema can affect any part of the body, it most often affects the hands, insides of the elbows, backs of the knees and the face and scalp in children. People with atopic eczema usually have periods when symptoms are less noticeable, as well as periods when symptoms become more severe (flare-ups). Certain activities such as exercise can aggravate the condition, but there are ways around it.
According to Lloyds Pharmacy: “Exercise leads to increased sweating which can irritate eczema but it’s important not to let eczema take over, so if you want to exercise don’t let having eczema stop you.”
The health company suggests some simple tips to minimise the impact exercise will have:
- Drink lots of water before, during and after exercise. Those with eczema will have inherently dry skin so it’s important to hydrate yourself when exercising to replace the water that is lost – and that means inside and out
- Moisturise before and after exercise. You don’t want to use something heavy as that would be counterproductive and trap sweat in. Instead, opt for something light and apply about an hour before working out. You can apply your richer emollient after a cool shower once you have finished your work out.
- Keep cool by taking regular breaks. Listen to your body and try not to overheat. TOP TIP: Cold compression wraps are great for cooling skin down.
- Opt for a loose fitting cotton t-shirt and loose shorts. Tight fitting clothing may be great for absorbing sweat but it’s not great for eczema. Loose fitting cotton will generally be more comfortable and less irritable.
According to the National Eczema Foundation, it is also important to find an eczema-friendly workout space to minimise symptoms: “Find a gym that is well ventilated.
“Look for one that has shower facilities and plenty of fresh, clean towels. Just remember to bring your own personal care products that work best for your sensitive skin, and don’t skimp on the lotion.”
The health body also recommends working out at home. “You can crank up the air-conditioning or surround yourself with fans and blast your favourite workout music.
“You can also take a shower immediately afterward to rinse off the sweat. Just make sure the water is cold or lukewarm, as hot water tends to dry out the skin.”
It is also important to choose the right time of day.
People that like to exercise outside should do so in the early morning or evening hours when the sun’s rays are less intense, advised the health site.
The peak sun intensity hours — when UV light is the strongest and the temperatures are at their hottest – happen between 10am and 4pm.
“Even if you avoid peak hours and stay in the shade, you should always wear sunblock.
“Bring extra bottles of water, not only to keep rehydrating but to also rinse off the sweat. Just as you would after a bath or shower, gently pat the skin dry with a clean towel,” it added.
According to Bupa UK, the main type of treatment for eczema are emollients – a special type of moisturiser. As the health body explained: “They work by restoring water and oils to your skin, soothing your skin and helping it to stay hydrated.
“They also help to repair any skin damage. Using emollients can ease any itching and pain you might have, and prevent your skin becoming infected.”
Emollients are available as creams, ointments, gels, lotions, sprays, washes and products that people can use in the bath or shower.
Bupa advises the following tips when using emollients:
- Use your emollients all the time, even when you don’t have any symptoms. This makes them more effective in preventing flare-ups.
- Make sure you’re applying a generous amount – most people don’t use enough emollients. As a guide, you should be using around 250–500g per week, depending on how severe your eczema is and the area of skin affected.
- You should be using emollients much more than any other treatment you might be prescribed, such as steroid creams.
- Apply your emollients as often as you can – aim for four times a day if you can. It’s a good idea to keep separate packs of emollient at your work, or at your child’s school or nursery.
- It’s particularly important to use emollients during and after washing. Apply them after gently drying your skin, while your skin is still moist.
- Smooth emollients onto your skin rather than rubbing them in. Always apply them in the direction of hair growth.
- Don’t share your emollient with anyone else, and if your emollient comes in a pot, use a clean spoon or spatula to get it out when you’re applying the emollient to your skin. This will stop the emollient inside the pot becoming contaminated with bacteria.
If the usual treatment doesn’t alleviate symptoms, a person’s doctor may suggest light therapy.
“In eczema, psoriasis and vitiligo, the ultraviolet light stops your skin getting so inflamed.
“Light therapy treatment also limits the overproduction of skin cells that build up to form the plaques of hard skin common in psoriasis,” added Bupa.
Light therapy involves short but regular sessions – two or three times a week – for a couple of months at a hospital or dermatology clinic.