Since scratching the affected areas can lead to infection, the goal in treating atopic dermatitis is to stop the itch and prevent future outbreaks [source: National Eczema Association].
At home, try applying lotions and creams to your skin while it is damp (after taking a shower or bath). Your skin will retain moisture, which helps soothe itching, as does a cold compress. You can also use an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to tone down the itch. If you visit your doctor, he or she can prescribe medications with topical corticosteriods that will help to reduce inflammation. In severe cases, doctors may prescribe corticosteroids in pill form instead of topical creams. You can also take antihistamines to reduce itching or talk to your doctor about chemical treatments that use tar to stop itching and irritation. In addition, some eczema patients use phototherapy treatments, which consist of ultraviolet (UV) light that targets areas affected by atopic dermatitis [source: EczemaNet]. Your treatment will typically depend on comfort, cost and convenience.
The second task is prevention. If you know that you are prone to flare-ups, take steps to prevent them. Moisturize your skin regularly, avoid sudden changes in temperature or humidity, and try to stay dry and cool. Stay away from scratchy materials, harsh soaps and detergents, and solvents. Find ways to reduce stress, and know that exposure to environmental factors such as pollen, mold, dust mites, animal saliva and pet dander can cause flare-ups [source: MedlinePlus].
And most importantly -- even though we've said it a few times already, it bears repeating -- don't scratch! Eczema is a fairly treatable condition but it can only get worse if you scratch it. So, after you've applied moisturizer, break out the potholders or mittens and keep your mitts off the itchy bits.
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