Sunday, April 27, 2008

Eczema Treatment--Hydration Then Moisturizers

This NYT article talks about a new theory of what causes at least some cases of eczema. It also talks about the fact that, while that may ultimately lead to new medications, in the short-term, the treatment is still the same--keep the skin hydrated.

Our son had moderately bad eczema on his feet and legs till he was 6. We saw a few doctors, the last of whom was a double-specialist in pediatric dermatology and pharmacology. He recommended a low-tech but surprisingly effective treatment. Rather than just slather on a lotion periodically during the day, he recommended first a soaking bath, to thoroughly hydrate the skin, then only a quick blot-dry, followed by a heavy dose of heavy-duty sealant, like petroleum jelly. Finally, the coup de grace was to encase the poor kid in damp, cotton pajamas for several hours, or the whole night!

We did this for over a year, and Seth was a surprisingly good sport (can you imagine wearing damp pajamas to bed?!). The effects were remarkable. It steadily mitigated, then eliminated his eczema. And since eczema to some extent tends to be self-reinforcing, I think if you can get rid of it for a while, you have a much better chance of getting rid of it permanently. We discontinued the wet pajamas treatment after about 15 months, and there was no relapse.

I have since used a similar approach to my own moderately dry skin, especially my hands. I hydrate, either by a shower or running my hands under water, then apply the moisturizer. What surprises me is that this hydrate-then-seal approach is not more well-known. Probably fits the classic saying--if this treatment could be bottled, it would cost a pretty penny and be heavily promoted.

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