Dr. Eliot Ghatan, MD



Cosmetic Dermatology,
General Dermatology

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Dr. Ghatan Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery
1226 Ocean Parkway
Brooklyn, New York 11230 [MAP]
For an appointment , call (718) 253-2053
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Atopic Dermatitis - Skin Care Tips

Atopic dermatitis is known by several names. atopic eczema, infant eczema, and atopic dermatitis are all the same condition. It is a disease, which is closely related to hay fever and asthma, and actually might be considered a form of hay fever, which manifests itself on the skin. There is a strong inherited factor present and we almost always find someone in the family with a history of hay fever or asthma, or a similar skin condition. 

It is important to understand that like hay fever and asthma, your condition is controllable rather than curable. In other words, the skin can be cleared and controlled, but recurrences generally occur. In order to prevent the frequencies of recurrences, an understanding of the aggravating factor is important.

Emotion is generally the most important aggravating factor. Emotional factors should be controlled as much as possible. Tenseness, too much competition and expecting too much from a child are frequent causes. Wool and synthetic fibers next to the skin in this condition will often cause patients to flare up.

Soap is harmful to the skin in this condition-use as little as possible. Use of milder soaps (I.E. Dove, purpose and neutrogena) is preferable, but avoid their use as much as possible. Restrict the use of soap and water. Use only in intertriginous areas "Spot cleansing", fingers, toes, axillae (armpits), groins and perianal area (only if free from inflammation). Do not use hot water for cleansing, if water has to be used, make sure it is tepid.

The question of diet is often overemphasized. Only rarely one finds that a specific item of food will cause the skin to break out. Elimination diets are of very little value, and are resorted to only if the skin is resistant to treatment. In general, all foods may be eaten. Scratch tests to food are generally of little value, and will not be done. Often, desentilization to dust is of value. Common food allergens: eggs, cow's milk, chocolae, cereals, fish, citrus fruits & nuts.

Atopic patients responds directly to the control of external irritants and allergens, therefore, every effort should be made to avoid or at least, control this harmful environment.

Control the temperature. The room temperature should be kept on the cool side. Overheating induces sweating, which can further cause an adverse reaction. Do not overdress an infant or a child for the same reason.

Keep the humidity, where possible, above 40%. The patient's skin is already dry, and you don't want to dehydrate the patient. Further, it is good to use a humidifier in homes with hot air heating.

When it comes to dust, it is stressed that rooms have bare floors and the pateints living quarters are vacuumed often and when the patient is out of the house. If carpets are used, make sure that not only carpets, but also blankets, and drapes are non-wool.

Avoid perfumes, deodorant sprays and insecticides.

There are other sources of triggers that should be avoided whenever possible:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • House dust mites -these shoud be controlled - regular vacuum cleaning of carpets, curtains and bedding. Using a plastic mattress coyer helps to reduce house mite population. Also to further control house mites, spray with a fungicide which destroys aspergillus penicilloides which the house mite feed on.
  • Animal dander
  • Avoid chrysanthemim plants, live fir trees (I.E. X-mas trees), paints or varnishes in the house
  • Cats, dogs and birds are hazardous to the atopic patient. Desire for pets can be directed toward aquatic animals, fish, turtles, etc.
  • Tomatoes and citrus fruits. If the patient eats these, frequent washing with lots of water, without wash cloth is essential.
  • Avoid new rough clothing. All cotton well washed is best. No wool. Make sure child does not play on rough rugs or upholstery.