Eczema is a skin disease most commonly seen in children, with up to 90 per cent of sufferers developing symptoms by age five, but it can occur in people of any age. Although it is not a life-threatening disease, eczema can have a debilitating effect on a sufferer’s quality of life. North Shore Mums spoke to President of the Eczema Association of Australasia Inc, Cheryl Talent to expose the truth behind the most common eczema myths.
Myth 1: You can ‘catch’ eczema from someone who has the disease
Fact: Eczema is absolutely not contagious. This means that you can’t ‘catch’ the disease from another person and you can’t give it to someone by touching him or her.
Myth 2: Eczema is caused by an emotional disorder
Fact: Although at one time doctors did believe that eczema was caused by an emotional disorder, we now know that emotional factors, like stress, can make eczema worse. There are techniques that can help you manage the stress, anxiety, anger, or frustration that can lead to increased instances of eczema ‘flare ups’.
Myth 3: You can’t go swimming if you have eczema
Fact: Most people with eczema can go swimming. However, some people who have severe eczema find that the chemicals used in swimming pools or the salt in sea water makes their eczema worse, so they choose not to go in. Make sure that before and after you go swimming, you rinse your skin and put on a moisturiser.
Myth 4: People who have eczema do not wash properly
Fact: Of course this is not true. Having eczema has nothing to do with personal hygiene; the disease is believed to be caused by a combination of environmental, genetic and immune system factors. In reality, many eczema sufferers bathe much more frequently than non-eczema sufferers to help hydrate the skin!
Myth 5: Eczema will leave permanent scars
Fact: Generally, no. Although your eczema can be very uncomfortable and unpleasant, it is very unusual for it to leave any permanent marks on your skin. However, some conventional treatments and intense scratching can cause skin discolouration, striae (white, shiny stretch marks), and skin thinning. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about any unusual side effects from your current treatment.
Myth 6: There are no effective natural products to help soothe eczema
Fact: Honey has been used in skin care, wound care and healing for centuries. Medical grade Manuka honey is produced under strictly controlled conditions and may be applied to cracked and inflamed skin, such as that affected by eczema to assist with control of skin colonising bacteria associated with this condition. A product like Comvita Medihoney Natural Eczema Care Range contains Manuka honey and soothing ingredients including aloe vera and chamomile to provide symptomatic relief of eczema.
Myth 7: Topical corticosteroids cause stunted growth and development
Fact: Corticosteroid creams and ointments should not be confused with anabolic steroids infamously used by some athletes. But, babies and very young children are at risk of absorbing topically applied corticosteroids into the bloodstream, especially when these medications are very potent, applied in large quantities too frequently, or used inappropriately under a diaper or other covered (occluded) area. As such there may be a risk of slowing growth (height). Corticosteroids taken by mouth or used for prolonged periods of time are absorbed into the bloodstream. These can reduce the body’s production of natural corticosteroids, weaken immune responses and affect growth, but do not affect brain development. Topically applied corticosteroids used in the appropriate quantity and for the appropriate duration are unlikely to affect growth or the body’s ability to fight infections.