If you suffer from an itchy skin condition such as eczema, otherwise known as atopic dermatitis, having a long bath or shower could seem like a good way to soothe the itch.
However, long baths in soapy water or long, hot showers may actually worsen eczema, according to medical website emedicinehealth.
Soaking in warm, non-soapy water followed immediately by moisturisers is helpful, however.
To prevent dry skin, you should take short, lukewarm showers or baths, while using a mild soap or body cleanser.
Short contact of the skin with a shampoo is generally not a problem, it said, but prolonged contact may worsen the rash if it is on the neck and face.
Prior to drying off, you should apply an effective emollient to wet skin, as these inhibit the evaporation of water.
Emollients have a stiff consistency and leave a shine with a slightly greasy feel on the skin.
“Most good emollients contain petroleum jelly, although certain solid vegetable shortenings do a more than creditable job,” said emedicinehealth.
“The thicker, the better, although patient preference is usually toward thinner lotions because of ease of application and avoidance of a greasy feel.”
“Oatmeal baths may be soothing to itchy, fissured skin although best outcomes will still result from applying moisturisers after rinsing off.”
If you suffer from eczema, you should also avoid wearing tight-fitting, rough or scratchy clothing.
You should also avoid scratching the rash, or cover the area with a dressing to stop yourself from scratching.
Wearing gloves at night can also minimise skin damage from scratching.
Anti-inflammatory topical creams may be necessary to control a flare of eczema, such as non-prescription steroid creams.
Calamine lotion may also be soothing, but will tend to dry out the skin. For this reason, it may be more useful for treating acute flare-ups rather than as a long-term therapy.
You should also clean the area with a hypoallergenic soap, as most antibacterial soaps are too irritating for eczema patients.
Home remedies, such as apple cider vinegar and tea tree oil are frequently touted as cures for eczema, but there is little or no scientific basis for these claims, according to emedicinehealth.
The medical website also recommends avoiding physical and mental stress, while eating healthily.
“Eating right, light activity, and adequate sleep will help someone stay healthy, which can help prevent flares,” emedicinehealth said.
“Do not expect a quick response. Atopic dermatitis is controllable but consistency in application of treatment products is necessary.”