Hydrating skin takes the itch out of eczema
EAR DR. DONOHUE: I have had to deal with eczema since I was a kid. The worst part of it is the itching. I try not to scratch, but during sleep I do it without waking. I have seen a number of doctors, but I cannot get rid of this awful curse. Are there any new ideas? — C.N.
ANSWER: Eczema (EK-suh-muh or ekZEE-muh) has another name, atopic dermatitis. Dermatitis is skin inflammation, the basis of this condition. Until recently, eczema was linked to illnesses with an allergic basis, like asthma. A more-current explanation is that the skin of people with eczema doesn’t have the normal proteins in it that retain moisture. Their skin dries. Dry skin itches. Scratching provides a brief interlude of relief, but it aggravates matters. It thickens the skin, leads to infections and facilitates drying. If you must, keep gloves or mittens on your hands during sleep.
Eczema frequently starts in childhood. Genes are definitely involved, even if no other family member has it. The places most often targeted are the hands, forearms, elbow crease, behind the knees and the neck.
The goal of treatment is skin hydration. The house’s humidity should be between 40 per cent and 60 per cent. Don’t take long, hot baths or showers. Make them brief, and use tepid water. After bathing, blot yourself with a towel, and then apply moisturizing creams while the skin is damp. Vaseline, which comes in creams, ointments and lotions, is inexpensive and works. Eucerin, Aquaphor, Nutraderm and Cetaphil are other products.
Often, a cortisone cream or ointment must be used to calm the inflammation, and the stronger cortisone preparations, such as fluocinolone, triamcinolone and clobetasol, might be necessary. They’re prescription
Dmeds. If the skin is infected, it has to be addressed with wet compresses and antibiotics applied directly to it.
The treatment of eczema isn’t a onetime affair. This is a chronic condition, one for which total eradication seldom is achieved.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have had a hoarse voice for a month. I gargle twice a day with various remedies I’ve found in drugstores, and I have also used saltwater for gargling. I rest my voice and whisper when I have to talk. My throat doesn’t hurt. What else can I do? — J.M. ANSWER: You can’t do much, other than what you have already tried. Most cases of laryngitis are caused by viruses, and last only for a week or two. Long-lasting laryngitis — hoarseness that continues for three or more weeks — requires a doctor’s examination. Polyps of the vocal cords, spasms of the vocal cord muscles, reflux of stomach acid and cancers of the cords have to be considered as causing the problem.
Stop whispering. Whispering is harder on the voice than normal speech.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am 16 and a girl. I’d like to know the difference between whiteheads and blackheads. I have both, and I have a few pimples. They look icky to me. How can I get rid of them? I don’t eat chocolate. — N.N.
ANSWER: A skin pore filled with sebum (oil from oil glands) becomes either a whitehead or a blackhead. If the pore is closed and the impacted oil isn’t exposed to air, then a whitehead is born. If the end of the pore is open and the oil is exposed to air, the oil turns black — a blackhead. Oil production peaks during puberty. Either can progress into a pimple. You can treat them with acne medicines found in all drugstores. Ones with benzoyl peroxide are inexpensive and usually effective. Don’t scrub your face. Don’t squeeze the whiteheads or blackheads. You can rupture the skin pore, and the oil will be released into the tissues beneath the skin. This can cause even bigger troubles for you. Most experts don’t believe chocolate has a hand in developing acne — whiteheads or blackheads.