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Common eczema triggers and how to avoid them

What is eczema?

Eczema often occurs in childhood and may go away with time, but it can happen to adults too. The most common form of eczema is a chronic condition called atopic dermatitis. Eczema and atopic dermatitis are often used interchangeably to describe symptoms such as dry, itchy skin, dark spots, redness, or rough skin. While the exact cause of eczema is unknown, we know that it can run in families. We also know that there are things called triggers, which can cause your eczema symptoms to worsen or flare up. Here are some common eczema triggers to look out for and avoid.

Allergens and irritants

Chemicals and natural substances that you encounter in daily life can irritate your skin and cause your eczema to flare up. Things like soaps, detergents, shampoos and body washes — especially the highly scented ones — can irritate your skin. The same goes for surface cleaners and disinfectants, which contain irritating chemicals like ammonia and chlorine. There are many fragrance-free, hypoallergenic soap and detergent options which are made for sensitive skin. Also try skin-friendly cleaning products and wear gloves when cleaning to avoid getting the chemicals on your skin.

Environmental allergens can also trigger eczema. These include things like dust mites, pet fur, pollen and mold. To avoid these triggers, vacuum carpets (or opt out of carpet entirely if you can) and wash bedding regularly in order to get rid of those pesky mites and dust particles.

Clothing and fabrics

Even the clothes you wear can be irritating. If you notice your eczema flare up when you wear potentially itchy materials like wool or synthetic fabrics like polyester, try switching to gentler materials like cotton. Also wash new clothes before you wear them, as the dyes used to keep them looking new in the store might irritate your skin.

Stress

When we’re stressed, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol, which increases inflammation and can also trigger eczema symptoms. By doing things to manage your stress — like meditation, getting enough sleep, exercise, talking it out with someone you trust, or seeking therapy — you can help minimize or prevent eczema flare-ups.

Food

Common food allergies can also trigger eczema symptoms, though this may not often be the case and is more likely to affect young children. Nonetheless, common food allergens include cows milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, and wheat. Highly processed or sugary foods can also cause inflammation and trigger eczema. However, don’t change your diet without careful consideration. If you suspect certain foods might trigger your eczema, create a log to track your diet alongside your eczema symptoms, which will help you pinpoint potential triggers. Work with your doctor or a dietician to figure out how to adjust your diet if necessary.

Hot or cold temperatures

When it comes to eczema, you want your environment to be just right — not too hot, too cold, too dry, or too humid. Hot, humid conditions and excessive sweat can cause skin to feel extra itchy. Weather’s not the only culprit here. When you wear clothes that make you sweat, or exercise and sweat profusely, your eczema can flare. This is because as sweat evaporates from our skin’s surface, it cools us down, but leaves behind salty residue that can irritate skin.

Cold and dry conditions can have the same effect. Dry air — for example, during the winter — takes moisture away from skin, leaving your skin susceptible to itching and an eczema flare up. Overall, do what you can to keep your skin happy. Exercise in the cool when you can. Wear loose clothing and dab sweat while exercising. Use a humidifier in your home to avoid dry air.

Hormonal changes

For women, eczema can flare up in response to hormonal changes. For example, estrogen helps keep your skin hydrated. In periods of low estrogen — such as before or during menstruation, during pregnancy, or during the transition to menopause — the skin can lose water and moisture, making it prone to eczema.

Other triggers

Dry skin, tobacco smoke, sunburn, bacterial infections like staph, or fungal infections like ringworm can also worsen eczema. It sometimes works the other way around too — eczema makes your skin more prone to dryness and infection.

Eczema triggers are different for everyone, so be sure to pay attention to what sorts of materials, substances and conditions cause flare ups for you. In addition to knowing your triggers, seeking proper treatment and having a good moisturizing routine — especially after taking a shower or swimming — are important to keep skin hydrated, healthy and eczema-free.

Our team at Alpha is here to help you treat your eczema. All you have to do is sign up and complete an online consultation. Then a member of our medical team will come up with a treatment plan just for you. Eczema treatment often involves topical corticosteroids — a cream that you apply to your skin to reduce inflammation and itchiness — and it’ll be mailed straight to your door with free shipping. No need to leave the house or visit the pharmacy. With Alpha, health care is made easy, so get started today!

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