Eczema is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that can affect people of all ages. Atopic eczema (atopic dermatitis) is the most common form of eczema, a condition that causes the skin to become itchy, dry and cracked. As the NHS explains, there are usually periods where the symptoms improve, followed by periods where they get worse.
Particularly severe episodes, which may occur as often as two or three times a month, are known as flare-ups, explains the health body.
Unfortunately, there is no proven way to cure the condition but treatments can help to ease symptoms.
A lesser-known treatment that has proven effective at calming flare-ups is wet wrap therapy.
Wet wrapping is a technique used in people with moderate to severe eczema in order to soothe the skin, introduce moisture and also to protect them from damage caused by scratching.
What does it entail? According to the National Eczema Association, wet therapy involves moistening a piece of clothing or gauze in warm water until it is slightly damp.
Next, wrap the moist dressing around the affected area; then gently wrap the dry layer over the wet one.
Lastly, carefully put on night-time clothing so as not to disturb the dressing.
“Leave wet wraps on for several hours or overnight, taking care not to let them dry out,” adds the NEA.
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Research shows that wet-wrap therapy can help improve eczema symptoms by increasing the moisture of a person’s skin.
In addition to rehydrating the skin, it can help topical medications work better, adds the NEA.
Do not use wet wraps over prescribed corticosteroid creams unless a doctor has advised this, however.
According to a literature review evaluating the efficacy of wet wrap therapy, there is a tendency towards more frequent infections when topical corticosteroids are covered with wet wrap bandages compared to emollients only.
Topical corticosteroids are creams and ointments used to reduce swelling and redness during flare-ups.
Emollients (moisturisers) are used every day to stop the skin becoming dry.
Additional self-help tips
While it is tempting, you should refrain from itching the affected region.
According to the NHS, scratching usually damages the skin, which can itself cause more eczema to occur.
To overcome this problem, you could try gently rubbing your skin with your fingers instead, advises the NHS.
“If your baby has atopic eczema, anti-scratch mittens may stop them scratching their skin,” says the health body.
Furthermore, keep your nails short and clean to minimise damage to the skin from unintentional scratching, it says.
Mayo Clinic also recommends the following tips:
- Apply bandages. Covering the affected area with bandages helps protect the skin and prevent scratching.
- Take a warm bath. Sprinkle the bath water with baking soda, uncooked oatmeal or colloidal oatmeal — a finely ground oatmeal that is made for the bathtub (Aveeno, others). Soak for 10 to 15 minutes, then pat dry. Apply moisturizer while the skin is still damp.
- Choose mild soaps without dyes or perfumes. Use soap that’s superfatted and non-alkaline. Be sure to rinse off the soap completely.
- Use a humidifier. Hot, dry indoor air can parch sensitive skin and worsen itching and flaking. A portable home humidifier or one attached to your furnace adds moisture to the air inside your home.
- Wear cool, smooth-textured clothing. Reduce irritation by avoiding clothing that’s rough, tight or scratchy. Also, wear appropriate clothing in hot weather or during exercise to prevent excessive sweating.
- Treat stress and anxiety. Stress and other emotional disorders can worsen atopic dermatitis. Acknowledging those and trying to improve your emotional health can help.
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