October is National Eczema Awareness Month. Here’s what you need to know about this common – and uncomfortable –  condition

What do Kate Middleton, Kerry Washington and Brad Pitt have in common (aside from their good looks and impeccable style)? They have all had to deal with eczema – a skin condition that affects about 35 million Americans. But what is it and how can it be treated? Here’s what you need to know about this itchy-and-scratchy problem.

Eczema explained

While 1% – 3% of eczema sufferers are adults, 10% – 20% are children. Most people afflicted with this usually-inherited show signs in early childhood, with many of them growing up to be symptom-free.

And what are the symptoms of this chronic inflammatory skin condition, exactly? Patches of skin become red, itchy and flaky, sometimes causing small blisters. Common areas of the body for rashes to form are behind the knees, inner elbows, hands and feet, and face. Not only can these patches be embarrassing, but also painful if the skin becomes tender or raw. Ouch!

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While some people live with eczema most of the time, some people are triggered by certain things. These can range from soaps and detergents to allergies, to sweat, to weather, and even emotional distress.

How to treat it

Despite how frustrating eczema can be, there are *fortunately* a number of ways to treat this common skin condition. And they won’t break the bank, either. Topical steroids and antihistamines are a popular choice when it comes to providing fast relief. There are also a number of lotions and unscented aqueous creams on the market geared at keeping flare-ups to a minimum and keeping skin soft and supple.

Another great habit to cultivate is a bathing and moisturizing routine and to limit contact with any of your triggers. It’s also recommended that you find ways to manage your stress levels as much as you do your outer environment. And, most importantly, no scratching!