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Ditch the Itch

What you need to know about eczema

Ditch the Itch

Dr. Jennie Berkovich

Eczema. Atopic dermatitis. Call it what you want, this common chronic skin condition tends to flare up in winter months and colder temperatures. Eczema causes discomfort, can lead to missed school days, and may be difficult and frustrating for kids — and their parents. Here’s what you need to know:

What is eczema?

Eczema is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that’s commonly associated with food allergies and asthma. It can be seen in early infancy all the way through adulthood and often runs in families.

What does it look like?

  1. Dry, itchy skin usually on the arms, legs, skin folds, and face.
  2. Eczematous skin can become infected with viruses such as herpes simplex, or bacteria that live on the skin such as staph. When this happens, the skin may become red and inflamed or develop small vesicles.

If the eczema is flaring, how can we treat it?

  1. Steroid creams, which come in varying degrees of strength, are the first thing to try. You can get 1% hydrocortisone cream in most pharmacies without a prescription.
  2. Topical steroids are typically only used for short periods of time. Using high potency steroids for too long can result in a loss of skin pigment called hypopigmentation and is not recommended.
  3. Topical calcineurin inhibitors are non-steroid medications, such as tacrolimus (Protopic) cream. They can be considered for use in areas of sensitive skin such as around the eyes. However, long-term side effects aren’t well known and they aren’t always covered by insurance.

How can we prevent eczema flare-ups?

  1. The key to prevention is moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!
  2. About one-third of patients with eczema have associated food allergies, so avoiding food that triggers eczema can help reduce flares.
  3. The “soak and seal” method: Give your child a lukewarm bath for 5 to 10 minutes, then pat dry, and cover the damp skin with a thick cream such as Vaseline. Try to use cream or ointment (think Vaseline and Aquaphor) rather than lotion, which is less potent.
  4. For more severe dryness, consider the “wet dressing” technique: After doing the soak and seal described above, put on a pair of wet pajamas followed by a pair of dry pajamas.
  5. Keep nails short, dress them in cotton clothing, and avoid fragrance in soaps, lotions, detergents, and fabric softeners.
  6. To help reduce the scratching that happens when dry skin gets itchy, consider giving an oral antihistamine like cetirizine (Zyrtec). Reducing scratching keeps the skin more comfortable and prevents infection.

Eczema is like a volcano. It’s always there, even when not erupting. The key to reducing “eruptions” is prevention with lots of moisturization. When the eczema volcano does erupt, short-treatment courses can prevent infection.


Dr. Jennie Berkovich is a board-certified pediatrician and serves as the the director of education for the Jewish Orthodox Women’s Medical Association (JOWMA) Preventative Health Committee.


Stress Isn’t Nothing

Sarah Rivkah Kohn

Stress begins by speaking softly, imploring us to take a break, to step away. It can whisper as you struggle to drift off to sleep. It can whisper through that persistent cold that annoyingly won’t go away. It can whisper in the extra coffee you suddenly need, though you’re getting a full night of sleep. Feeling unheard, it may raise its voice a couple of octaves. It may show up rather loudly in that migraine, edging its way into your back, waging wars with your stomach, and mostly lodging itself somewhere between your throat and your chest. “It’s nothing” we say. “NOTHING?! YOU CALL ME NOTHING?! I’LL SHOW YOU WHAT SIR NOTHING CAN DO!” There’s nothing that gets stress heading into all-out war more than being ignored. And when there is war, there are often casualties. Whatever you do, don’t ever tell stress that he is nothing.


Sarah Rivkah Kohn is the founder and director of Links and Shlomie’s Club, an organization servicing children and teens who lost a parent.


Invited or Invasive?

Mrs. Dina Schoonmaker

As women, we often want to give advice to others. Whenever we feel that urge, we need to ask ourselves: Is this invited or invasive? If I’ve been asked directly for my input, I can offer it. I can also offer an open-ended “If I can help you with that, let me know.” But if the other person isn’t open to listening, my advice will not only fall on deaf ears, it may feel like an attack. To keep your advice valuable, offer it only when invited.


Mrs. Dina Schoonmaker has been teaching in Michlalah Jerusalem College for over 30 years. She gives women’s vaadim and lectures internationally on topics of personal development.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 777)

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