COVID-19 is a type of coronavirus caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Some people with eczema may find that developing COVID-19 aggravates their symptoms.
COVID-19 is highly contagious and can present in different ways. It sometimes occurs with mild or no symptoms, while some people experience severe symptoms and complications that can lead to hospitalization or death.
All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date. Visit our coronavirus hub for the most recent information on the COVID-19 pandemic.
This article looks at eczema and how COVID-19 might affect it. We also consider treatment and prevention for COVID-19 and eczema and when to consult a doctor.
Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition. People often use the words eczema and atopic dermatitis interchangeably, as atopic dermatitis is the most common form of the disorder. Atopic refers to conditions involving the immune system, including eczema, hay fever, and asthma. Dermatitis refers to inflammation of the skin.
Eczema is common, affecting 31.6 million people in the United States.
Symptoms of eczema vary from person to person and are dependent on the severity of the condition, a person’s age, and other factors. People with eczema
Symptoms generally include:
- patches of red, scaly, dry skin
- sores that can open and ooze when a person scratches them
In People of Color, symptoms may also include:
- a brown or gray rash
- lighter or darker patches of skin which may last even when other symptoms have gone away
Evidence suggests that people with eczema are not at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 than those who do not have eczema. In people with eczema, the immune system does not work correctly, but it is not compromised. Eczema occurs due to an overactive immune system.
Interestingly, the overactive immune system in a person with eczema may be a factor in lowering the risk of COVID-19.
Research has found atopic diseases, including eczema, are associated with
However, COVID-19 can also exacerbate eczema symptoms.
People may experience more severe eczema symptoms more regularly because of COVID-19-related circumstances.
Frequent washing may lead to dry skin on the hands, which can become scaly and brittle and lead to an eczema flare-up. Healthcare workers with eczema may experience even greater trauma to the skin on their hands due to constant washing and infection-prevention practices.
Changes in treatment
Without treatment, symptoms of eczema can worsen.
According to the
For some people with eczema, a protective mask that rubs against the skin for long periods may worsen or trigger eczema.
There is no cure for eczema, but people can manage the condition with treatment.
A doctor or dermatologist can treat eczema with a combination of therapies, such as medication, skin care, and phototherapy.
Doctors may prescribe the following medications to treat eczema:
- corticosteroid creams or ointments to decrease inflammation
- moisturizing creams to help repair the skin barrier
- biologic medication, which blocks certain functions of the immune system
- immune inhibitors, such as Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors
A doctor may also recommend skin care strategies such as moisturizing after showering or bathing and avoiding harsh skin care products or products with strong scents.
Another potential treatment option is phototherapy or light therapy. This procedure involves using ultraviolet light to reduce inflammation.
COVID-19-induced eczema treatment
To avoid drying out the hands from frequent handwashing, which may trigger an eczema flare-up, a person can try using warm water rather than hot water, pat hands dry afterward, and apply moisturizer. They may benefit from using a gentle hand cleanser for sensitive skin.
If masks irritate facial eczema, a person can invest in a soft, high quality mask that is less likely to roughly rub against the skin.
To reduce stress, a person can try relaxation techniques such as meditation and breathing exercises or reach out to the Disaster Distress Hotline by calling or texting 1-800-985-5990 for immediate crisis counseling.
Treatment for COVID-19 happens on a case-by-case basis, as the severity and symptoms of the virus differ between people. Treatment may involve medication, such as the corticosteroid dexamethasone or the antiviral drugs Paxlovid, molnupiravir, or Veklury (remdesivir).
There are steps a person can take to help prevent eczema and COVID-19.
To prevent an eczema flare-up, the
- following a skin care routine and moisturize with appropriate products regularly
- preventing irritations to the skin by avoiding harsh products and clothing that rubs or irritates
- managing stress
- maintaining comfortable temperatures that are not too hot or cold
- washing their hands regularly
- cleaning and disinfecting surfaces
- wearing a mask
- getting fully vaccinated
- staying 6 feet away from others
- avoiding poorly ventilated areas and crowds
- covering sneezes and coughs
- getting tested
- taking precautions when traveling
A person with eczema should contact a doctor if:
- eczema is affecting their day-to-day life
- over-the-counter medication is ineffective
- the eczema lesions look infected, with pus or red streaks
- eczema lesions cover a large area of the body
A person with COVID-19 should seek medical care if their breathing is affected or symptoms are severe. They should call ahead to the medical facility if possible.
Research has found that people with eczema may be at a lower risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
However, people with eczema may experience more flare-ups due to factors brought about by COVID-19. These include dry skin from frequent handwashing, flare-ups from increased stress, and irritation caused by masks.
To reduce eczema flare-ups during the pandemic, a person should maintain a skin care routine that includes frequent moisturizing, washing hands in lukewarm water, moisturizing after washing, managing stress as best they can, and investing in a soft, high quality face mask. A person should follow CDC guidelines to help prevent coronavirus.