Eczema comes in many forms but the most common type is atopic eczema, a condition that is characterised by dry, itchy, cracked skin. Atopic eczema is more common in children, often developing before their first birthday. But it may also develop for the first time in adults. It’s usually a long-term (chronic) condition, although it can improve significantly, or even clear completely, in some children as they get older.
As the NHS explains, people with atopic eczema usually have periods when symptoms are less noticeable, as well as periods when symptoms become more severe (flare-ups).
Eczema flare-ups can have a significant impact on your overall quality of life as they can deter you from engaging in popular activities, such as exercise.
For many people, exercise can trigger intensive bouts of scratching on the skin as the surface temperature soars but there are a number of tips people can take to enjoy exercise without the risk of flare-ups.
Synthetic moisture clothing options draw sweat into the garments, but they may feel rough and irritate eczema, explains the NEA.
To overcome the problem, you should opt for light, breathable fabrics such as 100 percent cotton that don’t rub or scratch the skin during exercise, advises the health body.
It is also important to listen and respond to your body during exercise so you can rest, rehydrate and cool down if you’re sensing the start of a flare with your eczema, explains the health site.
“Being realistic around the state of your eczema when you want to exercise means choosing a level of intensity to match,” adds the NEA.
As the health body notes, cold compression wraps (using either re-freezable ice or gel) are most often used to treat soft-tissue swelling or injuries but make excellent aids for cooling the skin and calming the itch in eczema.
In addition, you should moisturise before and after exercise to minimise the risk of a flare-up.
“In much the same way that taking on water counteracts water lost while exercising, applying emollients will protect your skin in advance of and following exercise,” explains the NEA.
The healthy body advises against using a “heavier ointment” as it may compound the feeling of overheating and trap in sweat.
Instead you should opt for a cream or lighter application of ointment an hour before exercise allows time for it to have absorbed fully, it says.
General emollient tips
According to the NHS, it is helpful to keep separate supplies of emollients at work or school, or a tub in the bathroom and one in the living area so you are always prepared for a flare-up.
To apply the emollient:
- Use a large amount
- Do not rub it in – smooth it into the skin in the same direction the hair grows
- After a bath or shower, gently pat the skin dry and apply the emollient while the skin is still moist to keep the moisture in
“During a flare-up, apply generous amounts of emollient more frequently, but remember to treat inflamed skin with a topical corticosteroid as emollients used on their own are not enough to control it,” advises the health site.