TongRo Image Stock/Thinkstock
Topical steroid cream is the first choice of doctors in the treatment of eczema and other inflammatory skin conditions. However, they do have side effects such as lowering your immune system function and making you more susceptible to infections.
They can also thin your skin if you use too much, and they aren’t a cure for eczema in that they don’t get to the root cause of what is triggering the problem. They work by suppressing the inflammation and itching, rather than making it better.
So, what alternatives are there?
Sometimes eczema is caused by food allergy. This is particularly true for infants. In one study at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Australia, 44 out of 51 tested infants were found to have a food allergy to cow’s milk, egg or peanut.
If you are weaning your child and you suspect the eczema is caused by food allergy you could keep a food diary to see if it occurs after eating a particular food. Any recognised sensitive foods should be removed for a minimum of six weeks to see if it improves the eczema, and then added back into the diet with a doctor’s guidance.
Often, as the child matures and his immune system matures, he will lose his food intolerances.
Reduce Allergens in the Home
You should reduce as many allergens in the home as you can, for instance, dust mites. Dust mites can be reduced by washing bedding regularly. Tumble trying or direct sunlight exposure will also kill them. Washing items in laundry powder for sensitive skin and avoiding many harsh household cleaning chemicals can also help.
Ultraviolet light can reduce eczema and some people find their eczema clears up or improves after going on a sunshine holiday. A few minutes a day out in the sun without sunscreen may benefit your eczema without the risk of skin cancer.
Some clinical trials have shown that Chinese herbal medicine has had good results with treating eczema but further studies are needed to confirm this. You should employ a qualified medical herbalist rather than trying to self-treat as herbal preparations can be as potent as pharmaceutical drugs.