Common causes of inflammationCertain things set off inflammation flare-ups in people with eczema. Here are some common triggers.
DietCertain foods increase inflammation in the body, including:
- fried foods like french fries and fried chicken
- sodas and other sugary drinks
- red meat (burgers, steaks) and processed meat (hot dogs, sausages)
- refined carbs like cookies, white bread, and cake
- margarine, shortening, and lard
Cigarette smokeTobacco is linked to a number of serious health problems, including cancer and health disease. Eczema is another health issue resulting from tobacco use. In addition to irritating the skin, cigarette smoke has a harmful effect on the immune system. It produces chronic inflammation in the body. Smokers have
AllergiesEczema is an allergic disease. This means your immune system reacts to normally harmless substances in your environment by producing inflammation. Some of the allergens most likely to trigger eczema are:
- chemicals and fragrances in detergents, cosmetics, and household cleaners
- dust mites
- pet dander
- nickel or other metals
- certain foods, as noted above
Lack of sleepA solid seven to nine hours of sleep each night is essential for healthy immune function. Sleep helps your immune system learn how to react properly to germs and other threats. That may be why people who don’t sleep well tend to get more infections and allergies. Inflammation rises when the sleep pattern is broken. Disrupted sleep can throw off this cycle and lead to more
StressYour emotional health and the health of your skin are closely connected. When you’re under stress, your body releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. In larger-than-normal amounts, cortisol can trigger inflammation in the skin. Dealing with stress-induced flares can make you even more anxious and upset. Managing stress can help prevent flare-ups. Here are some ways to keep stress at bay:
- Relax with a good book or meditate for a few minutes a day.
- Steer your thoughts away from stress with a good distraction, such as a funny movie or a call with a good friend.
- Exercise. Be careful about getting overheated, though, if heat is a known eczema trigger.
- Find people to talk with about your eczema symptoms.
InfectionsEczema puts you at higher risk for infections. In part, this is because a problem with your skin barrier lets in more bacteria and other germs. Another reason is that inflammation interferes with your skin’s natural immune response against these germs. To prevent infections:
- Take a warm shower or bath each day.
- Apply a thick layer of moisturizer or prescribed topical medicine after bathing.
- Use a steroid cream or calcineurin inhibitor to bring down inflammation and improve your skin’s barrier against germs.
TreatmentsTreating eczema starts with learning and then avoiding your triggers. Bathing or showering in warm water every day and then using an oil-rich moisturizer afterward will prevent your skin from drying out and getting itchy. These topical treatments, some available over the counter and others by prescription, bring down inflammation and stop the itch:
- antihistamines, such as Benadryl, Zyrtec, and Claritin
- calcineurin inhibitors, such as tacrolimus ointment (Protopic) and cream (Elidel)