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Staying at home and managing eczema

We’ve put together some tips to keep your mind and body active and well in the coming weeks. If you have any other tips or suggestions, we’d love to hear them – please contact us at info@eczema.org.

Keep up a good eczema management regime

It’s important to make sure you’re managing eczema as effectively as you can at home. Now is the perfect time to revisit the basics of eczema care:

  • Apply emollient (medical moisturiser) at least twice a day, and every few hours if the skin is very dry. With clean hands, apply a thin and even layer downwards in the direction the hair grows, to avoid blocking the hair follicles, and smooth it gently into the skin, allowing it to soak in.
  • If the emollient comes in a tub rather than a pump dispenser, it should be decanted using a clean spoon before each application in order to avoid cross-contamination with bacteria.
  • Don’t spend too long in the bath/shower (15 mins maximum, ideally) and use warm rather than hot water. Long baths and showers make the skin more fragile, making subsequent scratching likely to cause greater damage. Wash your face and body using your leave-on emollient or an emollient soap substitute rather than soap or shower gel. However, we recommend that people follow the Government’s advice at this time where hand-washing is concerned, and wash hands with soap and water.
  • Keep your fingernails short to minimise scratching damage.
  • If you or someone in your household has a skin infection, avoid sharing towels, bedding or clothing until the infection has cleared.
  • We have information on different treatments and how to use them on our Treatments pages. If you have any questions, please email us at helpline@eczema.org or call us on 0800 089 1122. Remember that GPs are offering phone and video appointments, so if you need advice from a GP, please contact your GP practice.

Stay active

Exercise is known to reduce stress and improve mood. Unless you’re self-isolating or shielding and don’t have a garden, it’s a good idea to go outside for exercise where possible, for a change of scene and some fresh air. Here are some tips for eczema-friendly exercising outside and/or indoors:

  • There are plenty of free yoga/pilates/HIIT/general fitness videos on YouTube for all ages, and fitness and ability levels. Just search (for example) for ‘yoga videos’ and see which take your fancy. Check out the NHS Fitness Studio videos too.
  • Gardening and housework can also count as exercise! Now is the perfect time of year for a spot of gardening (if you have a garden) or spring cleaning. How about doing a thorough hoover of all the soft furnishings, reducing the house dust mite population? Housework is more fun if you listen to your favourite tunes while doing it.
  • If sweatiness and getting itchy are a problem, use cold gel or ice packs to keep you cool while you exercise. A pure water spray on your skin or clothes would also limit your need to sweat while exercising.
  • If you’re working out on a treadmill or exercise bike, you might find it helps to use a fan to blow over you as you exercise. Air conditioning isn’t great for people with eczema, as it’s drying.
  • If you’re doing exercise that involves grip – or mat-based exercises – make sure not to get too much emollient on your palms before exercising, or you might slip.
  • If you’ve worked up a sweat, have a shower as soon as possible after exercising, and re-apply your emollient after gently patting yourself dry with a soft towel.

Be entertained and relax

There are lots of ways to keep yourself entertained: reading books, listening to audiobooks, watching films and TV series, taking up a neglected craft project, starting a new craft project, trying out new recipes.

Have a look at the websites of your favourite theatres or museums to see whether they are holding any virtual events. The National Theatre and Sadlers Wells, for example, are making some of their past productions available to watch for free. The British Museum has an interactive website and the Vatican Museum allows you to take 360° tours of some of its galleries.

If you’re feeling stressed, you might find guided visualisations or ASMR videos helpful. You can search for examples of these on YouTube.

If you have a birthday coming up and can’t celebrate it in the usual way, how about making it special by holding a Facebook birthday fundraiser for National Eczema Society?

Connect with others

Keeping in touch with family and friends with phone and video calls can help your emotional wellbeing. One-to-one calls are easy using a mobile, but you can get groups together using apps such as Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts or Houseparty. If someone in your family or group of friends already uses one of these, ask them to help you set it up.

If you enjoy writing letters, search online for ‘coronavirus penpals’ and you’ll find the details of several care homes which are asking members of the public to write to care home residents.

Sleep well

Getting a good night’s sleep can be challenging for people with eczema at the best of times. If you’re feeling stressed it can be even more difficult. Here are some sleep tips:

  • Try to stick to regular bedtime and waking times.
  • Don’t exercise too close to bedtime.
  • Keep naps under an hour and avoid napping after 3pm.
  • Avoid checking the news or social media in the evening if you know it makes you anxious.
  • Wind down an hour before bed by listening to a gentle audiobook or music, trying relaxation exercises or having a bath.
  • Use emollients and other treatments well enough in advance of bedtime to allow them to soak in and not overheat your skin (especially if you’re using a thick ointment).
  • Try mindful bedtime breathing. This exercise is a good one to help you unwind when you’re lying awake at night with thoughts racing through your head: As you lie in bed, simply acknowledge the sensation of your body against the sheets and duvet and your head against the pillow. Turn your awareness to your breath in and out but do not try to change the rhythm of your breathing. (If you like, you can place your hands on your abdomen and feel the movement of the breath.) Continue to focus on your breathing. If your thoughts wander from your breath, simply acknowledge the fact that this is natural – the mind has a tendency to wander! – and gently bring your attention back to your breath flowing in and out of your body.
  • You might find guided sleep meditations helpful. Search for ‘guided sleep meditation’ on YouTube and have a scroll – there are plenty to choose from!