Self-management

Lifestyle and home remedies

These steps can help you manage dermatitis:

  • Use nonprescription anti-inflammation and anti-itch products. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion can temporarily relieve inflammation and itching. Oral antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl, others), may be helpful if itching is severe. Diphenhydramine may cause drowsiness and slowing of the urinary stream.
  • Apply cool, wet compresses. This helps soothe your skin.
  • Take a comfortably warm bath. Sprinkle your bath water with uncooked oatmeal or colloidal oatmeal — a finely ground oatmeal that's made for the bathtub. Soak for 5 to 10 minutes, pat dry and apply moisturizer.
  • Take a bleach bath. This may help people with severe atopic dermatitis by decreasing the bacteria on the skin. Add 1/2 cup (about 118 milliliters) of household bleach, not concentrated bleach, to a 40-gallon (about 151-liter) bathtub filled with warm water. Measures are for a U.S. standard-sized tub filled to the overflow drainage holes.
  • Avoid rubbing and scratching. Cover the itchy area with a dressing if you can't keep from scratching it. Trim nails and wear gloves at night.
  • Wear cotton clothing. Smooth-textured cotton clothing can help you avoid irritating the affected area.
  • Choose mild laundry detergent. Because your clothes, sheets and towels touch your skin, choose mild, unscented laundry products.
  • Moisturize your skin. Routinely using moisturizers can reduce the severity of atopic dermatitis. For mild forms of the condition, moisturizer may be the main form of treatment.
  • Avoid irritants. For contact dermatitis especially, try to minimize contact with the substance that caused your rash.
  • Use stress management techniques. Emotional stressors can cause some types of dermatitis to flare up. Techniques such as relaxation or biofeedback may help.

Prevention

Avoiding dry skin may be one factor in helping you prevent dermatitis. These tips can help you minimize the drying effects of bathing on your skin:

  • Take shorter baths or showers. Limit your baths and showers to 5 to 10 minutes. And use warm, rather than hot, water. Bath oil also may be helpful.
  • Use nonsoap cleansers or gentle soaps. Choose fragrance-free nonsoap cleansers or mild soaps. Some soaps can dry your skin.
  • Dry yourself carefully. After bathing, brush your skin rapidly with the palms of your hands, or gently pat your skin dry with a soft towel.
  • Moisturize your skin. While your skin is still damp, seal in moisture with an oil or a cream. Try different products to find one that works for you. Ideally, the best one for you will be safe, effective, affordable and unscented.