Q: Is hydrocortisone cream safe during pregnancy? If not, what else can I use to soothe my irritated skin?
A: Eczema, aka dermatitis, is characterized by red, flaky skin that sometimes also shows cracks or tiny blisters. "Eczema often flares up in summer because of excessive heat and sweating," says Linda Stein Gold, M.D., director of dermatology research at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. "Sweating irritates the skin and can cause itching." To reduce irritation, dress in cool, breathable cotton clothing. Use mild soaps, avoid products with fragrance and apply moisturizer while your skin is still damp to help it retain moisture.
"I treat eczema in my pregnant patients with hydrocortisone, but topical corticosteroids such as these should be used cautiously. It's best to check with your doctor," Gold says. For a milder approach, try over-the-counter products containing oatmeal. One of our favorites: Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Bath, $7, a fragrance-free soak with 43 percent natural oatmeal to cleanse and soothe dry skin.