The March 2021 issue has now been sent to members. If you are not yet a member, why not support a great cause and benefit from our quarterly magazine?

For those who would prefer to buy an individual copy without becoming a member, this edition is now available to buy in our online shop.

Our latest magazine is, as usual, packed full of news, advice on managing eczema for all ages and real-life stories from people living with eczema.

  • Hand hygiene and Covid: the impact on eczema care. Dr Susannah George looks at some ways Covid-19 has affected eczema care.
  • Baby on board: Julie Van Onselen, dermatology nurse adviser to the NES, and Claire Moulds, set out the latest evidence and practical advice for navigating pregnancy and eczema.
  • In the second part of our two-part series, Dr Tess McPherson shares her take on wellbeing for young people, drawing on her experience of running a young person’s skin clinic.
  • Sweet dreams…are made of this. Claire Moulds shares the recipe for a good night’s sleep.
  • All ears! Dr Kevin Molloy and Éadaoin Ó Catháin explain how eczema can affect the areas around the ears and what to do about it.
  • ‘I hope I’m helping future generations’: Graham Phillips reflects on using his experience of severe eczema to support others.
  • Plus: members’ letters, news and Ask the Expert (covering eczema herpeticum, eczema and antihistamines and acne and eczema).

Last updated 16.04.21

We will continue to update this page as new information that may be relevant to people with eczema comes to light. For more general information on Covid-19, please see the NHS website.

Do Covid-19 vaccines affect eczema?

So far, there is no evidence to suggest that Covid-19 vaccines will worsen eczema, and no reason to think they would.

If you experience a side effect following receiving one of the vaccines, including worsening of your eczema, please report it to the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)’s Coronavirus Yellow Card reporting site. Alternatively, report it to your GP.

Can people on treatments that affect the immune system take Covid-19 vaccines?

People taking systemic treatments that affect the immune system (for example, prednisolone, azathioprine, ciclosporin, methotrexate, mycophenelate mofetil and dupilumab) are advised to avoid ‘live’ vaccines. The three Covid-19 vaccines that are currently being rolled-out in the UK are not ‘live’ vaccines and have no Covid-19 virus in them. This means that people on treatments that affect the immune system can take them.

We don’t have enough information at the moment to know whether being on an immunosuppressant or biologic treatment will reduce the effectiveness of the vaccines.

People taking systemic treatments that affect the immune system are unlikely to need to stop taking their treatment (or delay starting new treatment) in order to take one of the Covid-19 vaccines. Check with your doctor if you’re unsure.

For more information on eczema, treatments that affect the immune system and the Covid-19 vaccines, please see the British Association of Dermatologists’ Covid-19 Provisional Guidance on Vaccination and the Government’s Green Book Covid-19 Provisional Guidance.

Covid-19 patient experience survey

Please complete the SECURE-AD online patient survey if you have eczema and have also been diagnosed with Covid-19 or experienced Covid-19 symptoms. It takes only 10 minutes and the results will help improve the medical care for people with eczema who are infected with Covid-19. More details here about this ground-breaking global research initiative.

Which types of face coverings are the most eczema-friendly?

Face coverings made from 100% cotton that can be washed regularly are probably the most eczema-friendly type of covering. Cloth ear loops are less likely to irritate the skin than elastic ones. Also consider coverings that tie around the back of the head. ‘Mask headbands’ or hats with buttons are another option. With these, the elastic loops around the buttons rather than your ears. ‘Neck gaiters’, ‘buffs’ or ‘tube scarfs’, which are basically a tube of material, might suit too – if 100% cotton.

Make sure the covering fits snugly around your nose and mouth but isn’t tight.

Avoid applying ointment emollients to the face shortly before you put on a covering, as they might make the face too hot.

Supplier suggestions:

  • Greenfibres sells 100% organic cotton face masks.
  • PeopleTree sells 100% organic cotton face masks.
  • Pure Cotton Comfort sells organic cotton face masks for adults and children.
  • Skinnies sells viscose face masks with cloth rather than elastic ear loops.
  • Spirit of Nature sells 100% cotton face masks.
  • Etsy has lots of different types of face coverings for sale. Search for the type you’re interested in.
  • ‘Handybands’ from Seasalt have been recommended to us by a Facebook follower. They can be used as face coverings as well as head bands. Organic cotton face masks are also available from Seasalt.
  • There are lots of guides and video tutorials showing you how to make different types of face covering, for example: BBC, YouTube.

If you have severe facial eczema that is made worse by wearing a face covering, the Government has exemption badges and cards on its website that you can print out.

How can I mitigate the effects of frequent hand-washing?

We recommend that people with eczema follow the government guidance to wash hands with soap and water, rather than an emollient soap substitute, as much as practically possible. Soap is considered to be more effective than emollient at breaking the lipid envelope surrounding coronavirus particles, and removing the virus from the skin.

Frequent washing of hands with soap can, however, cause problems for people with eczema, including dry skin and hand eczema. It is very important people find ways of managing dry skin and hand eczema that may be caused or worsened by frequent washing with soap.

Strategies for this include:

  • After washing hands with soap and water, re-wash using emollient to help protect the skin.
  • Use emollients to moisturise the hands after washing and at other times during the day when the skin feels dry and sore.
  • Dry hands well after washing by gently patting them dry, not rubbing. When drying your hands, take special care between the fingers where the skin is more prone to dryness and cracking, and build-up of soap residue.
  • Rehydrate sore dry hands overnight, using an ointment and wearing clean cotton gloves.
  • Wear nitrile gloves if you need to handle detergents or other cleaning products that can irritate the skin. These provide a physical barrier for the skin and can be purchased from chemists or from online shops.
  • If you develop more severe hand eczema or suspect your skin is infected, you should contact your GP and may need prescription medicine to reduce the inflammation.

If you feel you need to use sanitising gel (which may irritate your eczema), apply your usual emollient afterwards to minimise any irritant effect.

In public places where you can’t avoid touching surfaces, try not to touch your nose, eyes or mouth (or your child’s) because the virus gets in through mucous membranes.

What are the most eczema-friendly soaps?

We asked our followers on our social media channels which soaps they would recommend. Not all products will suit everyone, but people with eczema have said the following brands/products have worked well for them:

We don’t recommend applying olive oil to the skin as it can damage the skin barrier, but olive oil soaps seem to be well-tolerated by many people with eczema who responded to our request for soap recommendations.

How can I see a GP or dermatologist?

Please don’t delay in getting healthcare. If you need urgent medical help and it’s not an emergency, contact your GP or NHS 111 online or telephone NHS 111 first. Your GP practice should offer online, telephone and video consultations. If you are invited in for a face-to-face appointment, infection control measures are in place to keep patients and staff safe.

The Covid-19 NICE guidance says that dermatology departments should ‘optimise the use of teledermatology, such as telephone and video consultations’. If your dermatology appointment has been cancelled due to the crisis, try to find out whether a telephone or video consultation would be possible instead.

What is the current advice regarding shielding?

Shielding in England ended on 31 March, and in Wales, 1 April.

In Scotland, shielding is due to end on 26 April.

In Northern Ireland, medically-vulnerable and older people are still advised to be particularly careful in following the recommendations on limiting contacts.

For more information about systemic treatments for eczema and Covid-19 risk, please see the British Association of Dermatologists’ Risk Stratification Grid. It gives information about Covid-19 risk relating to systemic treatments and other factors.

Am I more likely to develop Covid-19 as a result of having eczema?

There is no evidence to suggest that people with eczema are more likely to develop Covid-19 or to experience a more severe form of the condition if they do develop it.

National Eczema Society is very pleased to have received vital new funding from the Coronavirus Community Support Fund. This award allows us to continue operating our Helpline service and support people with eczema and their families over the coming months. Calls to our confidential Helpline are free and the service is open 10am-4pm weekdays. We provide information, advice and a listening ear and we have been busier than ever supporting people with the additional challenges and worries of managing their eczema during the pandemic.

Like many charities, National Eczema Society has experienced a big drop in income from some traditional fundraising activities, such as the London Marathon, as a result of coronavirus. This new funding enables us to maintain our services while we work hard to develop other funding opportunities.

The Coronavirus Community Support Fund, distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund, was created to help third sector organisations continue to deliver much needed information and support during the ongoing crisis. We are grateful to the Government for making this possible.

To contact our Helpline, call 0800 448 0818 or email helpline@eczema.org. Our team of staff and nurse advisers are here to help.

In these uncertain times, Claire Moulds looks at ways to proactively improve your eczema routine. This article was published in Exchange 177, September 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected our lives in so many ways. Lockdown living has brought with it significant challenges – self-isolating, furloughing, shielding, home schooling and many more. The ways we access healthcare have changed too. For some, waiting times are even longer.

But these strange times have also offered a rare opportunity to take a step back and reassess our priorities, to reflect on how we use our time and find ways we can improve our quality of life. Life seems unlikely to revert to ‘normal’ any time soon. At a time when much is outside our control, re-evaluating how we manage our eczema ourselves is something that’s entirely within our control and provides a genuine opportunity to introduce positive change.

So, this could be the ideal time to review your eczema routine. With all the pressures of life, it’s understandable to focus on ‘what needs to be done’, sticking to the care regime that you’ve come to rely on, hard won through trial and error. But if your eczema is not as well controlled as you’d like, it’s worth considering a new approach.

Do your research

For real change to happen, you need to identify specific areas and actions. A vague commitment to ‘eat more healthily’ won’t deliver the desired results if you don’t know what ‘healthier’ looks like.

In eczema, one area where there is often disparity is the amount of emollient people think they are applying, compared with the amount they are actually using. The current recommendation is that an adult should use at least 500g per week and a child 250g, although your dermatologist may recommend you use significantly more.

To check, apply your usual amount for a week, but weigh each application beforehand – don’t ‘guesstimate’. If the total falls short, you need to increase the number of applications per day, or the amount per application. It sounds simple, but applying the right amount can make a huge difference. Knowing how long your normal dispenser should last, at the correct usage rate, is handy for staying on track.

Keep a record

Not all changes deliver immediate results so, to stay motivated, it’s worth keeping a diary with a weekly photo and daily reflections, charting your skin’s progress and how you’re feeling. We know eczema can have a significant psychological impact, so it’s important to monitor your emotional state as well as your physical symptoms. Reviewing your diary might then reveal a cycle where stress makes your eczema
worse > deteriorating eczema makes you even more stressed > increased stress leads to further deterioration, and so on.

Similarly, logging how much you scratch, and why, could help you consciously change your scratch pattern and replace it with less destructive techniques, such as pressing, tapping or pinching the skin, clenching your fists gently or squeezing a squidgy ball. So, try keeping a daily scratch record. Write down at the end of the morning, end of the afternoon, before bed and on waking how much you’ve scratched during that time period on a scale of 1 (not at all) to 10 (constantly). Alongside, note anything that contributed to that bout of scratching and anything that helped bring it to an end, so you can build up a picture of triggers and solutions.

We often scratch unconsciously, so also ask your family, partner, friends and colleagues (if you feel comfortable to) to feed back on what they’ve noticed about your scratching, what triggers it and how you manage it. This can be particularly enlightening. You may be unaware that you scratch while watching TV, when you have your head buried in a report at work, or when you’re just back from the gym.

Knowing this can help to break the itch–scratch cycle – for instance, you might choose to go straight to the shower when you come home from the gym rather than chatting (and scratching) with your housemates.

Make it a habit

A habit is created when something becomes the norm so that we do it almost automatically. Turning positive new behaviours into habits is key to establishing change in our lives and one good way to do that is to pair the new behaviour with an existing habit.

For instance, we all know the importance of moisturising our body from the inside out, by drinking more water. One method of achieving this is to link drinking water to a frequent feature of your day. For example, you could drink a glass of water every time you eat or whenever you take a break from what you are doing.

Equally, keeping your fingernails short and filed, to avoid sharp edges, will lessen the destructive impact of scratching. Why not pair nail care with a weekly event, such as your favourite TV programme?

Research shows it takes around two months for a habit to become ingrained. So, it’s crucial to be consistent and stick with a change until it becomes automatic. Two months might seem like a long time and hard work, but you’ll enjoy the benefits for the rest of your life!

Create space for improvement

‘I don’t have the time’ is a common reason people give for not making changes. Yet it’s fair to say most of us probably don’t use all of our hours productively.

The key is to ringfence certain times where you prioritise your needs:

  • Make sure you know exactly how much time you need in the morning and evening to properly care for your skin, and what needs to happen to ensure this isn’t rushed or interrupted. For example, does your partner need to look after the children more to make space for this?
  • If stress is a trigger, commit to a specific time each day to check in with yourself and make time for practising relaxation techniques, breathing exercises or mindfulness.
  • While a good night’s sleep is soothing to mind and body, a bad night can leave our skin, and our minds, on edge. Set a regular bedtime and practice sleep hygiene. Avoid heavy meals, caffeine and alcohol in the hours before sleep, make your bedroom as dark and quiet as possible, and ban TV and mobile devices two hours before lights out.

Be kind to yourself

One of the reasons new year’s resolutions fail is that they often involve multiple major lifestyle changes. Instead of being overambitious, focus on making small, manageable tweaks in order to deliver genuine, long-lasting change.

Accept from the beginning that you’ll have the odd ‘off’ day and be kind to yourself, acknowledge the blip and get back on track straight away. Recognise how far you’ve come and start the next day afresh.

Instead of tying a reward to your end goal, give yourself treats along the way to mark your progress. This can be particularly helpful when trying to motivate young children, who won’t necessarily understand how change will help their skin long term. But us grown ups need incentives too!

We know how important it is for people to see photos of real people with eczema on our website and social media channels. It’s also important that we show people of different ages, sexes and skin colours with eczema, so everyone with eczema can see themselves represented.

Would you be willing to send us a photo of your eczema, that we can use to illustrate our social media posts and website articles?

We are looking for photos of:

  • Eczema on the eyelids
  • Eczema on the ears
  • Eczema on the face
  • Eczema on the hands
  • Eczema on the arms
  • Eczema on the legs
  • Eczema on the feet
  • Discoid eczema
  • Pompholyx eczema
  • Seborrhoeic dermatitis

Photos need to be:

  • Clear and detailed, with a high image resolution
  • Taken against a plain background (if the background is visible)
  • Suitable sizes for use on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter (i.e. 1080 x 1080 or 1200 x 630 or 1024 x 512 pixels). Photos don’t need to be these exact dimensions, but if they are very different we may need to edit them slightly (e.g. by cropping them)
  • Of eczema that has been diagnosed as eczema by a healthcare professional

Please send your photos to info@eczema.org with your completed consent form.

We really appreciate your help!

Having good quality photos of people with eczema will significantly improve our content by giving a better idea of what different types of eczema look like on different demographics of people.

National Eczema Society was very pleased to see the publication of a major new report on mental health and skin disease, produced by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Skin (APPGS).

This looks at the mental health support available to people with skin conditions in the UK and the psychological impact of living with these conditions. It provides evidence of the urgent need for more and better services to support people with the mental health impact of skin conditions like eczema, which can be so debilitating.

Almost all the patients (98%) who took part in an APPGS survey earlier this year said their condition affects their emotional and psychological wellbeing. Five per cent reported having suicidal thoughts. Over half of the patients surveyed did not realise specialised support was available for people with skin conditions, in the form of psychodermatology.

National Eczema Society contributed to this important report and helped promote the patient survey. Thank you to everyone who took part and a number of powerful anonymised quotes from people with eczema are included in the report. Our wonderful patient advocate, Shal Henry-Treloar, spoke about her family’s experience of eczema and her own challenges at an APPGS evidence-gathering event in Westminster in March.

This APPGS report reinforces many of the findings of the Society’s own Eczema Unmasked survey, which we promoted during National Eczema Week. This also highlighted the mental health impacts of living with eczema and the lack of access to emotional and psychological support services.

The full APPGS report is here.