What Causes Eczema?

Eczema is a common skin disorder in children. It’s caused by an over-active immune system and damaged skin. The damaged skin allows for bacteria and other irritants to enter the skin. This leads to more inflammation and worsening of the eczema. Scratching only damages the skin making it easier for bacteria to penetrate. Here’s a short video that explains what causes eczema.

Poison Ivy and Poison Oak Treatment

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There are some lucky people who don’t get poison ivy or oak. If you’re like me, you do. Here are some poison plant pointers:

Ivy block cream prevents poison ivy or oak, but only if it is applied 15 minutes before exposure. It doesn’t work after you’ve been exposed.

The intensely itchy, sometimes frighteningly-bubbly rash is an allergic reaction to oil, urishiol, found on poison ivy, oak and sumac plants.

You can wash off the oil with soap and water. Do not use laundry detergent, alcohol, or expensive poison ivy soap — any ordinary bar of soap will wash off the oil. However, the oil is quickly absorbed into your skin, like olive oil into nice piece of Italian bread, so time is of the essence. Once the oil is absorbed in your skin, you cannot get it out no matter what you use.

  • You can wash off 50% of the oil within 10 minutes
  • You can wash off 10% of the oil within in 30 minutes
  • After 1 hour, no amount of washing will make any difference. Nothing will prevent the soon to be rash.

Whatever you do, don’t touch your groin in the first hour or so. You could end up in the hospital; I’ve seen it.

After one hour, you cannot spread poison ivy to someone else. Scratching or breaking the water blisters does not spread the poison ivy or the rash.

The rash lasts for 2 weeks, sometimes less if it is not severe. No cream or treatment, however expensive, can shorten the duration. The rash must run its course.

Once your arms and face turn into wet tapioca pudding, use a drying astringent like Domboro soaks to dry it out.

Once the blistering dries up, apply a topical steroid like hydrocortisone 1% cream or anti-itching lotions like topical Calamine or Benadryl. Cool baths with collodial oatmeal will also help. Super hot showers will relieve the itching, but only temporarily, and in the end, only makes it worse.

If you have a severe case of poison ivy, defined by your mother doesn’t recognize you or you are unable to sit, stand, or lie down, then see a dermatologist for prescription drugs to help.

Photo: Jim Frazier (flickr)

Post by Dr. Benabio, copyright The Derm Blog 2009.

Study Uses Functional MRI to Answer Why Scratching Relieves Itching

A study by Dr. Yosipovitch at Wake Forest University used functional MRIs to examine the effects on the brain of scratching an itch. Scratching decreased activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and in the posterior cingulate cortex. These areas are associated with pain aversion and memory. According to the study, an increase in scratching led to a decrease of activity in these areas of the brain.

“It’s possible that scratching may suppress the emotional components of itch and bring about relief,” Yosipovitch said.

Well, plenty of my patients must be emotionally suppressed these days — with winter itch in full effect, plenty of them are scratching.

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