Atopic Dermatitis (Adult)

Atopic dermatitis is a dry, itchy, red rash. It’s also called eczema. The rash is chronic, or ongoing. It can come and go over time. The disease is often passed down in families. It causes a problem with the skin barrier that makes the skin more sensitive to the environment and other factors. The increased skin sensitivity causes an itch, which causes scratching. Scratching can worsen the itching or also break the skin. This can put the skin at risk of infection.

The condition is most common in people with asthma, hay fever, hives, or dry or sensitive skin. The rash may be caused by extreme heat or heavy sweating. Skin irritants can cause the rash to flare up. These can include wool or silk clothing, grease, oils, some medicines, and harsh soaps and detergents. Emotional stress can also be a trigger.

Treatment is done to relieve the itching and inflammation of the skin. This is often done with home care and over-the-counter treatments. Your healthcare provider may prescribe other treatments.

Home care

Follow these tips to care for your condition:

  • Keep the areas of rash clean by bathing at least every other day. Use lukewarm water to bathe. Don’t use hot water, which can dry out the skin.

  • Don’t use soaps with strong detergents. Use mild soaps made for sensitive skin.

  • Apply a cream or ointment to damp skin right after bathing.

  • Stay away from things that irritate your skin. Wear absorbent, soft fabrics next to the skin rather than rough or scratchy materials.

  • Use mild laundry soap free of scents and perfumes. Make sure to rinse all the soap out of your clothes.

  • Treat any skin infection as directed.

  • Use oral diphenhydramine to help reduce itching. This is an antihistamine you can buy at drug and grocery stores. It can make you sleepy, so use lower doses during the daytime. Be cautious of driving or operating machinery. Or you can use loratadine or other antihistamines that may not make you as sleepy. Don't use diphenhydramine if you have glaucoma or have trouble urinating due to an enlarged prostate.

Follow-up care

See your healthcare provider, or as advised. If your symptoms don’t get better or if they get worse in the next 7 days, make an appointment with your healthcare provider.

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Increasing area of redness or pain in the skin

  • Yellow crusts or wet drainage from the rash

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your provider

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