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November 10, 2016

Eczema causes and prevention

Dry, red, swollen skin and itching are symptoms of eczema, a common skin problem. What causes it? What can you do at home to find relief or prevent flare-ups? Find out here.

Eczema basics

Eczema is a type of dermatitis, a group of skin diseases involving inflammation. Dermatitis comes in many forms, but the two most common are:

  • Eczema (also called atopic dermatitis) 

Eczema, the most prevalent form of dermatitis, is a chronic, non-contagious disease marked by flare-ups and bouts of remission of varying lengths. Young children are more prone to eczema than adults, but 90 percent of them will outgrow it by adolescence. 

  • Contact dermatitis

As the name suggests, contact dermatitis occurs when skin comes into direct contact with an irritant (e.g. detergent) or an allergen (e.g. gold jewellery). It can develop from a single exposure or after repeated contact.  The reaction resolves in a few hours or days once contact with the trigger has ceased.

Symptoms of eczema 

The symptoms of eczema include:

  • Severe itching
  • Redness
  • Inflammation
  • Dry skin
  • Small blisters

Causes of eczema

The exact causes of eczema are not yet understood, but we do know that the skin structure of those affected shows abnormalities. Their immune system also tends to be hypersensitive.

People with other types of allergic disorders (e.g., asthma, food allergies) and children whose parents have such diseases are at a higher risk for eczema. 


Many factors, including perfumes, soap, rough clothing, foods, excessive indoor heat, a low level of humidity, heavy perspiration and stress, can produce or aggravate an eczema flare-up. 

If you have eczema, you will need to identify your triggers and avoid them as much as possible. 

Prevention measures

Controlling exposure to your triggers is a great way to reduce eczema flares-up, but there are many other prevention measures that can help.

Personal hygiene and skin care

  • Take at least one lukewarm bath or shower every day (more during flare-ups).   
  • You can add a few drops of emulsifying oil to your bathwater, but stay away from scented bath oils or bath foams, which are too irritating for skin.
  • Wash your face and body with a mild, hypoallergenic cleanser. 
  • After bathing, gently pat dry your skin with a soft towel made of natural fibres.
  • Apply a generous quantity of moisturizer or lotion to your skin while it is still damp. This will help to trap the moisture.
  • Choose a rich, nourishing, scent-free product that contains ceramides, shea butter, mineral oils, fatty acids or other similar ingredients that can relieve itching or help repair skin. If you need assistance in finding the right product, just ask your family pharmacist or beauty consultant.
  • Use moisturizer every day, even between flare-ups. This will keep your skin well hydrated, which will reduce the risk of future bouts.  

Clothing and laundry 

  • Choose garments made of cotton, not wool, linen, hemp or synthetic fibres, which tend to be rougher.
  • Use hypoallergenic laundry detergent and do not add fabric softener to the wash water. 

When it comes to eczema, properly hydrating your skin is by far the most important treatment measure. Don’t wait for a flare-up to act. Put these measures in place every day! 

Pharmacy services

Do you have eczema? Need tips on managing it? Speak with your family pharmacists for expert advice and help in selecting suitable products for your skin. They can also prescribe* medications for certain minor health problems, including eczema, when the treatment and diagnosis are already known.  A consultation will be required so the pharmacist can make sure you meet the prescribing criteria.

To avail yourself of this service, you may need to book an appointment with your family pharmacist. Ask a member of the pharmacy team for more details. Some Uniprix-affiliated pharmacies also offer an online appointment booking service. To locate the store nearest you providing this service, click here

*Certain conditions must be respected. Fees may apply. Ask a member of the pharmacy team for more information. Pharmacists alone are responsible for the practice of pharmacy. They offer related services only on behalf of pharmacist-owners.