Scientists have recently identified a link between immune cells called mastocytes, or mast cells and the skin disease eczema. Mast cells normally play a role in wound healing and in protecting the body against invasive microbes, but in eczema, this immune response is turned against the skin itself. It is the inflammatory response mediated by the mast cells that causes the characteristic rash of eczema. The autoimmune skin disease often strikes people with asthma or hay fever, or their immediate relatives. Allergies, like eczema, can be traced to an autoimmune response involving mast cells.
The good news is that eczema doesn’t always require a prescription. Here are some easy treatments you can do at home:
- Try an oatmeal bath. There are oatmeal-based eczema products available, but store-bought oatmeal—instant or regular—will work equally well. Add several handfuls to lukewarm, but not hot, water and let it dissolve.
- Soak cucumber slices in water for two hours, then apply it to the affected area with gauze.
- Make a poultice from carrots boiled soft and then mashed. Spread it over the rash, and rinse it off with cool water after 15 minutes
- Allow chamomile tea to steep in room-temperature water for 15 minutes, then use gauze or a cloth to put it on the rash.
- Soothe your skin with coconut oil.
- A surprising treatment is bleach, very diluted—a quarter-cup to 20 gallons of water, about a half-full bathtub.
If these don’t help, hydrocortisone cream and aloe are available over the counter, as are products with gamma linolenic acid, lactic acid, and ceramides. Prescription treatments include stronger hydrocortisone concentrations and corticosteroids applied to the skin, or antihistamine or corticosteroid medications.