Bad diet, nasty steroids, 'the cure' and staying away from the pool; a top Harley Street dermatologist debunks common myths about one of the nation's most dreaded skin conditions - eczema.
In the UK, one in five children and one in twelve adults have eczema*, a condition which has severity levels ranging from dry, scaly, red and itchy to weeping, crusty and bleeding skin.
Contradictory information about the condition is rife, with sufferers favouring advice from family and friends (22 per cent) or fellow patients (19 per cent) over dedicated websites**.
Ahead of National Eczema Week (September 12-20), sensitive laundry and washing up brand Surcare has teamed up with Dr Adam Friedmann, from the Harley Street Dermatology Clinic, to bring sufferers expert advice.
- Myth: Diet is the reason for my child's eczema
Truth: Dr Friedmann said: "I have many people come into my clinic suffering from eczema and there are a lot of misconceptions about the condition and how best to treat it.
"The most common myth I encounter is that what you eat is responsible for eczema. Although a child with a food allergy can be a little sensitive, this is not where eczema stems from.
"The exact causes of eczema are unknown. There are many triggers for flare-ups and the key is to find out what these triggers are so that you can control your exposure to them. Only a small number of children, generally under age 3, with eczema are helped by changes in diet.
"I often have parents come into my clinic who have cut out everything - down to eating bread and drinking water - but cutting food groups can just make their child more unwell. It is best to have a healthy, balanced diet as this will have a positive effect on the immune system."
- Myth: Steroids will permanently damage the skin
Truth: Dr Friedmann said: "This is another common myth. Topical steroids are a valuable tool in the treatment or control of eczema, particularly during a flare-up. They can reduce redness and inflammation and make the skin less itchy and sore, giving it a chance to heal.
"Problems arise when steroids are misused - if instructions for the treatment are followed correctly, the skin can recover properly and the eczema will be much easier to manage."
- Myth: Eczema can be cured
Truth: Dr Friedmann said: "There is no cure for eczema. However, with the right treatment, it can be controlled. The good news is that, for 90 per cent of children with eczema, the condition will become less severe with time."
- Myth: Stay away from swimming pools if you have eczema
Truth: Dr Friedmann said: "Keeping healthy and active is encouraged, as the more you look after yourself, the better your immune system. The key is to be prepared.
"With swimming, it is important to be careful of chlorine in pools as this can irritate eczema - eczema sufferers should take a shower before going into the pool and moisturise well before getting in. Ensure you shower afterwards and moisturise well before getting dressed."
- Myth: Avoid exercise if you have eczema
Truth: Dr Friedmann said: "Sweating too hard during exercise can make the eczema temporarily worse. Again, the key is to be prepared. Reduce the risk of irritation by moisturising before and after exercise, drink plenty of water and favour loose, cotton clothing over synthetics like polyester or Spandex.
"Extreme change in temperature can also have an affect on the condition. Avoid hot showers after exercise as this sudden change can lead to itching and also stay away from fragranced shower gels or soaps."
As well as setting the story straight on common eczema myths, Dr Friedmann is offering his own expert medical tips on keeping flare-ups at bay.
He said: "I recommend regularly moisturising to retain the skin's moisture, avoid irritants such as soap, wipes and fragrances and wash with creams such as aqueous cream or dermol.
"Also get plenty of sleep and de-stress; it is a known fact that stress and exhaustion lower the immune system and make most rashes worse."
Surcare Washing Powder, Super-Concentrated Laundry Liquid, Washing up Liquid, Laundry Capsules and Fabric Conditioner are specifically designed to be kinder to sensitive skin and don't contain any unnecessary ingredients which could irritate skin - no enzymes, dyes, acids or perfumes.
The products have been independently dermatologically tested and approved and have been formulated to reduce exposure to allergens. Surcare's range of non-biological washing detergents and washing up liquid have Allergy UK's seal of approval.
*According to National Eczema Society
**Talk Health Survey of 7,369 people with skin conditions, conducted in April 2015