Karina Sandberg suffers from such unbearable itching due to a severe case of eczema that the 29-year-old mother has resorted to using a pair of scissors to deal with the irritation.
“One night my skin was so hot and itchy, I scratched my legs with some scissors from the kitchen,” she stated, as reported by the Daily Mail. “I took the blade and rubbed it across my skin for about 30-45 seconds and was left bleeding. My husband, David, 43, was there. He was appalled.”
The office manager from Florida was diagnosed with eczema when she was just 4 months old and has spent the majority of her life undergoing tests and searching for viable remedies, which have included prescription medications, UVB treatments, and dietary changes. Yet the chronic itching continues.
Eczema — also known as atopic dermatitis — is an itchy, red rash that can appear anywhere on the body and affects over 30 million Americans, according to the National Eczema Association. While there is no cure, this condition can usually be managed. And even though feeling itchy is expected, intense scratching can make matters worse.
“Scratching not only makes you itch more, but it opens the skin, leaving it vulnerable to infection,” Kally Papantoniou, a board-certified dermatologist at the Advanced Dermatology Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery in New York and a clinical instructor at Mount Sinai Dermatology, tells Yahoo Beauty. “Chronic scratching can lead to skin damage, the release of histamines, and excitement of nerve endings in the area.”
If the excessive scratching creates a wound, which in turn becomes colonized with bacteria, this will exacerbate the eczema “and makes it even more difficult to control.”
Papantoniou adds that dermatologists often see the “scratch-itch cycle” that can develop with patients who are dealing with this condition. To put an end to the itching, she advises using an antihistamine (such as Claritin) or a topical cortisone, along with moisturizing twice a day — especially immediately after a shower — with an over-the-counter non-comedogenic, fragrance-free lotion that contains menthol. “If kept in the refrigerator, this lotion will feel nice and cool on itchy skin.”
The same goes for children. In fact, a June 2016 study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology discovered that daily bathing can soothe the skin and control symptoms in kids, as long as the bath is followed by a thick coat of moisturizer. (They refer to this method as “soak and smear.”)
Papantoniou also recommends applying a cool pack (or ice pack) to the itchy area for five minutes (“The ice will act as an anti-inflammatory treatment to the area and can really stop the itching”), as well as taking an oatmeal bath.
Overall, the No. 1 tip that is essential for controlling eczema — and preventing eczema flare-ups — is proper skincare.
“The use of a gentle cleanser is key,” states Papantoniou. “Also, patients should not apply soap all over the body. Instead, focus on washing areas that are necessary, such as the underarms and groin. And no washcloths or sponges, either!”
But if these remedies fail to stop the itching or if your skin becomes infected, she strongly suggests making an appointment with your doctor. “Then it’s time to see a dermatologist for prescription-strength treatments.”