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[L. eczema, fr. Gr. ekzema, fr. ekzein, to boil over]
A general term for an itchy red rash that initially weeps or oozes serum and may become crusted, thickened, or scaly. Eczematous rash may result from various causes, including allergies, irritating chemicals, drugs, scratching or rubbing the skin, or sun exposure. It may be acute or chronic. The rash may become secondarily infected.
Avoiding the cause of the rash (such as a sun-sensitizing drug; the leaves of the poison oak plant; an irritating soap or perfume; wool clothing) prevents recurrences and allows the skin to heal. Locally applied astringent solutions (such as Burow solution), antihistamines, or corticosteroid ointments, tablets, or injections may relieve the inflammation.
Patients are helped to identify and avoid allergens in their diet or environment. Clothing should be soft textured, preferably cotton, and washed in a mild detergent and rinsed thoroughly. Fingernails should be kept short to decrease damage from scratching. Antihistamines may help to reduce itching at night. Maintaining a room temperature below 72°F (22°C), using humidifiers during the winter, and bathing in tepid water help keep the skin hydrated and decrease itching.