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How to ease the itch of eczema; YOUR HEALTH.

Byline: KIM JONES

AS the nights cool off and the heating gets switched on there could be restless nights ahead for eczema sufferers.

Central heating lowers air humidity which dries out skin - and it's just one factor which can cause flare-ups of this nasty skin disorder.

But there could be hope on the horizon thanks to the development of the first biological drugs for the condition. Until now, treatment has consisted largely of topical creams, steroids and immunosuppressant medication, which depress the entire immune system and can harm the kidneys and liver.

"The new biological drugs are exciting because unlike standard immune suppression, they are very focused and that tends to leave the immune system largely functioning normally," says Dr Adam Friedmann, a consultant dermatologist at The Harley Street Dermatology Clinic.

In March, Dupixent (dupilumab) was the first biologic medication approved by the US regulators for adults with moderate to severe atopic dermatitis - eczema.

In September, it was granted a licence in the EU, meaning it could be available on the NHS soon.

And the injectable drug is already available to some patients in the UK via the Early Access to Medicines Scheme. It can be self-administered by a patient every other week after an initial loading dose.

Here are eight other things that can ease the eczema itch

Watch what you put in the washing machine Chemicals in washing powders can irritate your skin and cause a flareup. Add an extra rinse to your wash cycle and don't overload the machine. Experiment with what you put in your wash. Stop using fabric softeners, or switch from biological powders to non-bio fragrance-free detergents, or even eco wash balls, which use no detergent.

Handy help

The ALPHA trial, co-ordinated by Leeds University, is recruiting people with hand eczema which hasn't responded to prescription steroid creams. It is testing the tablet treatment Alitretinoin, which works by reducing skin cell turnover, with a therapy where the hands are exposed to ultraviolet light after they've been soaked in a special solution. See medhealth.leeds.ac.uk.

Meanwhile, remember that soaps, washing-up liquid, shampoo and even fruit and vegetable juices (such as orange, lemon, potato, onion and tomato) can irritate hand eczema.

Take off rings when doing housework, as soap can get trapped under them. And use vinyl or 'hypoallergenic' gloves, not latex which can irritate.

Bust the dust

The house dust mite can be a trigger. Use a damp rather than a dry cloth to dust, and vacuum with a cleaner that has a HEPA filter for pollutants - see allergyuk.org for its recommendations.

Fruit vegetable juices as lemon, potato tomato irritate. eczema Soft toys harbour dust so regularly wash them, along with bedding, at 60 degrees. Consider replacing carpets with hard floors and curtains with blinds.

Track triggers

Doing this helped 60% of parents who took part in the Epaderm Junior Eczema Tracker study. They said logging things in a diary helped them identify causes of eczema.

These included a link between colder weather and drier, itchy skin, and sodium lauryl sulphate in emollients and other toiletries.

An Eczema Tracker, based on the research findings, is now available to download at www.epaderm.com.

Keep up the good work

Dryness makes symptoms worse, so using specialist emollient creams is the mainstay of caring for eczema-prone skin.

But don't make the mistake of stopping using emollients if your skin isn't flaring up, says Dylan Griffiths of skin care firm Eucerin. "They should be used every day, regardless of whether the skin is in an active or inactive phase," he says.

"How often to apply varies depending on the dryness. A good starting point is to apply two to three times a day, but some people need to do it up to every hour."

Apply it right

According to health guidelines group NICE, many patients fail to apply enough emollient. It says 600g a week for an adult is the average.

Dylan Griffiths advises applying emollient by smoothing it in along the line of hair growth, rather than rubbing it in. And he says thicker products applied upwards can block hair follicles.

The threeminute rule

Bathing is important for supporting skin hydration so people should take at least one bath or shower a day, ideally just before bed, for no longer than 15 minutes, says Dylan Griffiths.

"Water should be lukewarm and use a soap substitute such as Eucerin AtoControl Bath & Shower Oil," he says.

Then apply an emollient within three minutes of getting out to trap moisture in the skin. Try Cetraben ointment, PS6.99.

Drink oolong tea

A study found that 63% of eczema patients who drank three cups of oolong tea daily showed marked to moderate improvement in their condition after one or two weeks. This may be due to the anti-allergy properties of polyphenols in the tea.

"Fruit and vegetable juices such as orange, lemon, onion, potato and tomato can irritate hand eczema
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 10, 2017
Words:822
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