Living with a chronic condition often involves self-care as part of your daily routine. With a chronic condition like atopic dermatitis, treatment and management can include:
- prescription medication
- dietary changes
- lifestyle considerations
- environmental factors
- natural remedies
This article is a great place to start if you’re looking for ways to take care of yourself and manage atopic dermatitis.
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition that falls into the category of eczema. Eczema refers to a wide range of inflammatory skin conditions. Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema.
The main symptom of atopic dermatitis is dry, itchy skin. Flare-ups are caused by inflammation in the body and produce a red, itchy rash.
Self-care for atopic dermatitis means staying focused on your health — both physical and mental. This is important because many things can trigger inflammation, including dietary and environmental factors and even your stress levels.
By practicing self-care, you can reduce your chance of having flare-ups.
Taking care of your skin each day is important with atopic dermatitis. Here are some things you can do to help care for your skin:
- Keep your skin moisturized with lotion or ointment 2 or 3 times a day.
- Apply moisturizer to wet or damp skin.
- Use moisturizers that have no alcohol, dyes, or chemicals you may be allergic to.
- Run a humidifier at home.
- Avoid strong soaps and detergents.
- Dress appropriately on hot days to avoid sweating excessively.
- Avoid scratchy fabrics for your clothes and bedding.
- Bathe less often and use cool (rather than hot) water.
- Use soaps that are gentle on your skin instead of traditional soap products.
Eating certain foods
Some reactions may be immediate (within minutes or hours), while others can occur even days later. Knowing whether you’re allergic or sensitive to certain foods — and what they are — can help you avoid triggers and take care of your skin and body.
If you suspect you may be allergic to certain foods, keeping a food journal can help you determine any sensitivities or allergies. You can also ask a medical professional about allergy testing.
A diet that promotes skin health often includes anti-inflammatory foods and those with probiotics to boost your immune system. These foods include:
- fatty fish like salmon or herring (or an omega-3 supplement)
- fruits like apples, blueberries, and cherries
- vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and kale
- sourdough bread
- miso soup
- soft cheeses
It may be helpful to avoid any food you have a known allergy to, as well as foods high in refined sugar such as cake, soda, or candy, which can trigger flare-ups.
The ideal diet will look different for each person, depending on preferences, food allergies, and sensitivities. Talk with a doctor about the best foods for you or consult a nutritionist who specializes in food allergies.
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. This is especially true with atopic dermatitis, because stress has been linked with the condition. Stress is thought to trigger inflammatory immune reactions, which can make dermatitis worse or cause flare-ups.
Additionally, more than 30 percent of people with atopic dermatitis have also been diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety. This may be caused by communication between the brain and body during an immune response, but researchers are still studying the connection.
To take care of your mental health, you can try:
In addition to taking care of your mental and physical health needs, making certain lifestyle changes can help you manage atopic dermatitis. Ordinary things you might not otherwise think about can impact this condition.
Making careful decisions about outdoor activities and sun protection can help you manage atopic dermatitis and reduce the risk of flare-ups.
While sunlight can help some people with atopic dermatitis, too much of it can worsen symptoms in those with more serious skin issues. Excessive sweating can also cause a flare-up.
Being outside exposes you to a variety of allergens, such as pollen and grass. Eczema is also associated with allergic rhinitis and asthma. Up to 80 percent of children with atopic dermatitis later develop asthma and/or allergic rhinitis.
Avoiding exposure to allergens can help reduce skin irritation and flare-ups.
At home, using mild detergents for clothes and sheets is recommended, as is using a humidifier.
In addition to any medications your doctor prescribes, natural remedies may bring relief as well.
Before you use any natural remedies, talk with a medical professional to make sure they’re safe for you. It’s important to make sure they won’t interfere with any medication you’re taking or have any other negative effects.
At-home treatment options can include:
- colloidal oatmeal bath
- evening primrose oil (topical or by mouth) to reduce systemic inflammation
- coconut oil (topical)
- sunflower oil (topical)
- witch hazel applied to inflamed or itchy skin
- calendula cream
- tea tree oil
- GLA (gamma linolenic acid) (oral supplement)
Acupuncture and acupressure may also help bring itch relief and aid in relaxation, which can lower stress and help with atopic dermatitis.
Managing atopic dermatitis involves more than just taking medications. Taking care of your mental and emotional health affects your body, and making mindful lifestyle choices can also impact your skin health.
If you have any questions about what else you can do to help manage your atopic dermatitis, talk with a doctor about the best options and resources to reduce or manage your flare-ups.