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Doctors group a number of skin conditions under the term "eczema," but the central symptoms are the same: dry, itchy, inflamed skin that can be very uncomfortable. Though it often appears as early as infancy, eczema can develop at any time of life and is often linked to concurrent conditions like allergies.

  People with eczema can be sensitive to many different things, including certain types of fabrics, detergents and the dramatic temperature and humidity changes often found in Louisiana. All these variables may trigger or exacerbate skin irritation.

  Northshore physician Dr. Meredith Grembowicz has experimented with numerous treatments to address her daughter's severe eczema. Here, she suggests several ways to minimize outbreaks. "Like with any chronic condition," Grembowicz says, "the key is staying on top of it." — Kat Stromquist

Check your diet. Food allergies (such as dairy, gluten and soy) can worsen eczema. Try eliminating certain foods from your diet — you may not even be aware you have a sensitivity.

Scrutinize your soaps. Soaps and detergents should be fragrance-free, as these compounds aren't good for rash-prone areas.

Or, skip the soap all together. Instead, try sea salt baths to help the skin retain moisture. Grembowicz manufactures a naturally antibacterial sea salt compound which eliminates the need for soaps.

Avoid exfoliation. Unless you have psoriasis, rough scrubbing irritates affected skin. Rinse the skin, lightly pat dry, and moisturize with a ceramide lotion.

Resist the urge to scratch. It's important not to rub or scratch your skin during an outbreak, as it can lead to further rawness and bleeding. Grembowicz recommends oral antihistamines to treat itching.


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