Tag Archives: Eczema


The skin is the protective barrier between the inside of our bodies and the outside world of microorganisms, parasites and toxins. It is often the site of inflammation and infections.

In past times, before the advent of cleanliness and antibiotics, mankind was plagued by erysipelas, boils, carbuncles, and other severe infections of the skin, which are rarely seen now. The beta hemolytic streptococcus and Staphylococcus aureus were ubiquitous in the past, and mostly are contained today.

Severe Infections presently require some skin abnormality, immune deficiency, neglect, animal bite or other breach of skin integrity to be a problem. Antibiotic resistance, however, is allowing some organisms like MERSA to make a comeback.

ECZEMA. or Atopic Dermatitis, was common in my medical practice. This condition weakens the skin barrier, allowing Staphylococcal infection to gain a foothold. In my day, If there were a flare of eczema severity, antibiotics would often help. Leg edema and swelling. such as from heart failure, especially coupled with diabetes and blood vessel disease is also an invitation to infection, such as cellulitis.

Redness, swelling, warmth and pain- the classic rubor, tumor, calor and dolor- as well as swollen local lymph nodes and fever often betray infection of the skin. Please see the recently posted infographic on celulitis.

IMMUNE DEFICIENCY raises the likelihood and risk of severe skin infections. Infection from “flesh-eating bacteria”, often beta hemolytic streptococci in deep tissue planes , is a medical emergency. Immediate surgery is often needed.

Disproportionate PAIN after injury or surgery is often a clue. Certain age groups have characteristic skin infections, such as the scalded skin syndrome of infants, and the acne of adolescents. Viruses, molds, and arthropods can also infect the skin.

Viruses, such as herpes in particular can simulate bacterial infection. Ringworm from fungi is easy to distinguish, but arthropod bites, and especially bee sting can look very much like bacterial infection. Scabies and mite infestation are so itchy as to be distinct.

Topical antibiotics applied on skin breaks like cuts or breaks are useful in preventing infection. These ointments and creams are like “artificial skin”. Once again, prevention is key.

–Dr. C.


As I have aged, my skin has been more itchy. My allergy practice was loaded with Patients whose ECZEMA and HIVES itched. My favorite uncle developed intolerable itching (pruritis) in his 90’s, and died within a year of metastatic Prostate Cancer.

This gives you an idea of the Range of this annoying sensation. My emphasis here will be on CHRONIC ITCHING with DRY SKIN in otherwise HEALTHY PEOPLE without much rash or other skin condition. If you want extra discussion, look at Reference #1. If you are a Doctor, or a brute for punishment, see Ref.#2, a CME review.

Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and deserves respect right from birth. The skin of your child is wonderfly healthy in looks and self repair. EXCESSIVE SUN EXPOSURE is about the only thing you need to protect her from, and the only penalty is increased cancer risk in later life.

As your body ages, your skin looses some of its essential oils, and and becomes more dry (at least you don’t get acne any more). You become more sensitive to dry air, like in the winter, when the cold outside air (adiabatically) drops in relative humidity when warmed to inside temperature.

Do you notice the increase in static electricity shocks in the winter? If not, I’m sure that you do notice that your skin itches more. one treatment for the “winter itch” is to humidify the inside air. If you have a draughty old house like I do, it may be more convenient to use MOISTURIZING LOTIONS.

These were once mainstays of itch control in my former practice (before development of the effective modern medications). Eucerin and Cetaphil were very helpful. Maybe it is because of the name, but I now find myself using Curel “Itch Defense” all over my body twice daily,.

The itching is much less now, except for my EARS. My ear canals (they are skin too!) have recently been very dry and itchy, maybe because i listen to podcasts when walking or swimming.

Unwilling to give up my podcasts, I put some UNSCENTED Johnson’s baby oil with my little finger into my ear canals, as suggested by my ENT Doctor (I wanted to be sure i didn’t have a diagnosable condition like a fungal infection). If I have a small spot that itches a lot, I use some 1% Hydrocortisone cream, and I feel better.

Antihistamines don’t do much for me, but are effective if the itching is a real allergy (most of what people call allergy is not the IGE-MEDIATED, “real” variety). HISTAMINE is the quintessential provocateur of ITCH. Cetirizine (or atarax) is the strongest of available antihistamines, and diphenhydramine (benadryl) the old standby.

Chronic itching can be caused by a plethora of illnesses, as you will find if you choose to read the following papers.

– Dr. C

Reference #1

Reference #2