Don’t Automatically Reach for Antibiotics to Treat Eczema, Dermatologists Say

You may be itching like crazy, but before you decide to go on a course of antibiotics, check to see if you really have an infection.

The American Academy of Dermatology recently released a list of “treatments and procedures that are not always necessary”. One of the items on the list states:

Don’t use oral antibiotics for treatment of atopic dermatitis unless there is clinical evidence of infection. Antibiotic therapy has not been shown to reduce the signs, symptoms or severity of atopic dermatitis that is not infected.

While it’s true that people with eczema are more prone to bacterial infections, bacteria itself may not be the cause. Instead, something else must be triggering your eczema, and the breaks and cracks in your skin are the reason that bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus can take hold.

How to tell if your skin is really infected?

The National Eczema Society in UK has a quick checklist for signs of infection:

  • It’s not getting better with topical steroids
  • Your skin has blisters, pustules or dry crust
  • Your skin is weeping a clear or yellow fluid, or yellow pus spots appear
  • There is reddening, itching, soreness and sudden worsening of the eczema
  • There are small, red spots around the body hairs;
  • You have a fever, and flu-like symptoms
  • You have swollen glands in the neck, armpit or groin

If you answer yes to any of the above, see your doctor, who may do a culture to confirm a bacterial infection, and prescribe some antibiotics. Your doctor may also give you an antibacterial cream like Fucidin instead of a full course of oral antibiotics.

If you want prevent an infection in the first place, try your best to keep your skin from breaking, especially at night.

Have you ever experienced above – the infected areas felt warm, and steroid cream did nothing to help. Only after a course of Augmentin antibiotics, your skin begins to calm down.

How to prevent a skin infection from eczema

If you want prevent an infection in the first place, try your best to keep your skin from breaking, especially at night. Some tips to prevent skin rash infection :

  • Keep your fingernails short. You may have awesome will power and avoid scratching in the daytime, but night time is a different story. You may end up scratching unconsciously at night, but with short nails, you run less risk of breaking your skin.
  • Apply some itch-relieving cream at night. A dermatologist formulated anti-itch lotion, made in Singapore at National Skin Centre is menthol-based SuuBalm. This lotion is useful to minimize scratching on non-broken wounded rash.
  • Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic, and I’ve found that it soothes my skin quite nicely. You can put a few drops in a container of water, and dab it on the affected areas. A good brand like Tea Tree Therapy from Australia can be found via a leading SG online health website :, Use discount code “SKINSHARE” when you order from to get 5% discount.
  • Wash broken, oozy rash with a gentle, mild antiseptic wash. HOSPIGEL® is a cleansing gel in liquid form for face and body. It is suitable from newborn to adults. Safe to be used in wound care, skin conditions and daily wash.
Hospigel wash

photo credit: Marquette La via photopin cc

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