Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis or contact dermatitis, is a chronic but manageable skin condition. It causes a rash on your skin that leads to redness, itching, and discomfort.
Young children often develop eczema, and symptoms may improve with age. Your family history may be one of the most significant factors in developing the condition, but there are other triggers that cause symptoms to appear or worsen.
Learning to identify and manage the triggers may help you control the condition’s symptoms. Here are 10 possible eczema triggers.
Certain foods may trigger rapid or delayed eczema or make already-present eczema worse. You may see signs of eczema immediately after eating a certain food, or it may take hours or days to appear.
Eczema that worsens from consuming particular foods is
Avoiding foods that trigger eczema will likely improve your symptoms and reduce eczema flares. The foods that trigger eczema will vary from person to person, but the foods that most
- nuts, both peanuts and tree nuts
- cow’s milk
- seafood and shellfish
Try eliminating a suspected food from your diet to see if your symptoms lessen, or see a doctor to get a formal food allergy test.
Dry skin can trigger eczema. Your skin can become dry from lack of moisture in the air, long exposure to too-hot water, and a lack of a daily skin care routine.
Here are a few ways to keep your skin from drying out:
- Apply non-fragranced, dye-free thick moisturizer, like an ointment or cream, immediately after bathing or showering.
- Use moisturizer every time you wash your hands.
- Avoid taking baths or showers for longer than 10 minutes or in hot water (stick to warm water).
Your mental health can impact eczema flares. A
Controlling your stress may help control your eczema. Find ways to relax, such as:
Getting enough sleep may also help you reduce your levels of stress. Try to unwind for a few hours in the evening and go to bed at the same time each night. Aim for a full night of sleep regularly.
Contact with irritating chemicals and substances can be a major trigger for eczema. This includes fragrances, dyes, and other chemicals you use to clean your body or your home.
Look at the list of ingredients in any product you use on your body. Pick body products that are free from fragrances and dyes to reduce the chance of an eczema flare.
Choose home products that are free from irritants as well. Switch out laundry detergents, for example, to products without unnecessary ingredients.
Additionally, substances, like nickel and even fabrics, can cause a reaction on your body that trigger eczema. Try to wear natural fabrics like cotton, and always wash your clothes before wearing them for the first time to remove unwanted chemicals from the garments.
Chemicals like chlorine found in swimming pools may also trigger eczema. Take a shower right after swimming to wash off chemicals that may irritate your skin.
Allergens that you inhale can cause eczema because of the way your immune system reacts to these triggers.
Airborne allergens include:
- pet dander
Reduce your exposure to these allergens by:
- not having pets and avoid staying at homes with furry or feathered pets
- cleaning your house and linens regularly
- living in a space with no carpet
- limiting the amount of upholstery and other stuffed objects (pillows, stuffed animals) in your home
- keeping your living space properly humidified
- turning the air conditioner on instead of opening windows
- avoiding mold
- avoiding exposure to smoke
Your doctor can perform an allergy skin test to determine whether one of these allergens causes a rash on your skin. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter treatments or allergy shots as a treatment.
Sweat can impact your eczema. Sweat not only helps your body regulate its temperature, but it also affects the moisture of your skin and how your immune system works.
Your body may have a sweat allergy that worsens eczema, but sweat itself with no allergy can even worsen eczema. Eczema can block sweat and not allow it to leave your body as it should. Your eczema may itch more after sweating.
One 2017 study concluded that managing sweat in adults with eczema is extremely useful, even if you aren’t allergic to sweat.
There are many ways you can manage your sweat with eczema, such as not exercising in heat, wearing appropriate clothes, and engaging in low-sweat exercises.
Dry skin and sweating can both trigger eczema, and they often occur in hot and cold temperatures. Cold weather often lacks humidity and can cause dry skin. Hot weather causes you to sweat more than usual.
Living in conditions with a regulated temperature can help you manage your eczema symptoms. Avoid exposing yourself to very hot and cold temperatures.
Your hormones may cause eczema, especially if you are female. There is one type of eczema known as autoimmune progesterone dermatitis that can flare according to your menstrual cycle. This condition is very rare.
You may experience an eczema flare right before you get your period, when the progesterone in your body elevates. Your eczema may disappear a few days after your period, only to reemerge again during your next cycle.
Discuss this condition with your doctor to determine how to best manage it. Your doctor may recommend ways to treat the rash as it occurs around your cycle, such as with certain topical ointments. Avoid medications with progesterone.
Bacteria may enter through eczema-affected skin. Staphylococcus aureus is one type of bacteria that can lead to an infection. You may notice that your skin becomes redder or weepy if the area is infected.
Skin that opens because of eczema symptoms can also let other viruses to enter your body, such as herpes. These can cause blisters on your skin.
If your eczema symptoms worsen or if you have a fever or fatigue, you may have an infection. See your doctor for treatment, which may include an antibiotic.
Do not scratch skin affected by eczema to avoid opening it. You should keep your nails trimmed to lessen the chance of opening your skin.
Smoking tobacco can also irritate your skin and worsen eczema. A 2016 study found a strong association between smoking and eczema on the hand. You may reduce your chances of developing or triggering hand eczema by quitting smoking.
See a doctor if you cannot manage your eczema symptoms at home or if your eczema interferes with your day-to-day life. If you are concerned about a food or airborne allergy causing your symptoms, your doctor may be able to help you diagnose it and help with treatment.
There are a variety of triggers that can cause or worsen your eczema. Try to find out what makes your condition worse and avoid it whenever you can. Discuss treatment options with your doctor when you do experience a flare to ease your discomfort and reduce symptoms.