Eczema Triggers and How to Avoid Them

Feb 14, 2023
Eczema Triggers and How to Avoid Them
Eczema is a tricky disorder, often caused by environmental triggers or other exposures. Learn more about the common triggers for eczema and how to avoid them.

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin disorder that approximately 1 in 10 Americans develop in their lifetime. If you have eczema, you already know that flare-ups can worsen your symptoms seemingly out of nowhere.

Fortunately, you can protect yourself from common triggers that cause flare-ups. The team of providers at Integrated Dermatology of 19th Street in Washington, D.C., discusses the most frequent eczema triggers and how to avoid them.

What causes eczema

Doctors aren’t sure what causes eczema, but it seems to come from a complex interaction between your genes and your environment.

Contrary to popular belief, eczema is not an autoimmune disorder. However, overactive immune system responses, such as allergic reactions, have much in common with eczema flare-ups.

Additionally, every case of eczema is different and unique. What triggers your eczema to flare up might differ from what triggers the eczema of a friend.

The symptoms of eczema

While every case of eczema is unique, most people have similar symptoms during their flare-ups.

Your skin might feel very dry and itchy, and you may have a rash. Other common symptoms of eczema include raw, sensitive skin from scratching and sores that ooze or crust.

In severe cases, the itchiness and sensitivity of your skin can interfere with sleep and daily activities. If this happens, it’s more important than ever to work with your doctor to manage your flare-ups.

Common environmental eczema triggers

Some of the most common eczema triggers occur naturally in your everyday environment. These include:

  • Dry or cold weather
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Perfumes or colognes, including heavily perfumed products
  • Metals
  • Cocamidopropyl betaine (a thickening agent often used in shampoos)

While dry or cold weather is the most common trigger, any change in the weather can produce symptoms. In the case of stress and anxiety, doctors believe that cortisol spikes may contribute to flare-ups just like other environmental factors would.

The role of food allergies

Researchers have observed that many people with eczema also have food allergies, but they’re unsure if one causes the other. Nevertheless, if you’re struggling with eczema flare-ups, try to avoid possible allergens that can add to your symptoms.

Some of the most common food allergens include the following:

  • Dairy products
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Eggs
  • Tree nuts and seeds

While some people outgrow some food allergies over time, others are permanent. In addition to managing your external environment, watch out for foods that may trigger flare-up symptoms.

How to prevent your triggers

Once you know about the most common eczema triggers, you can take steps to prevent flare-ups and limit the hold that eczema has on your life.

Apply moisturizer to your skin at least twice daily to protect it from drying out. Fragrance-free moisturizers may not be enough for eczema-prone skin, so look for products that are also hypoallergenic, unscented, and free of artificial coloring. 

Stress isn’t avoidable for anyone, but you can minimize your stress as much as possible. Consider establishing a healthy new habit to promote relaxation, such as yoga or journaling.

Exercise is a vital part of any lifestyle, but too much sweat build-up can deposit trace metals on your skin and lead to flare-ups. If this happens, choose exercises that cause you to sweat less, and be sure to shower as soon as you finish your workout.

Keeping a diary or log of your exposures can help you learn about the eczema triggers that affect you. You may discover over time that you can identify new triggers and prevent future outbreaks.

If you have eczema and it’s interfering with your life, you can get help and feel more comfortable. Contact the providers at Integrated Dermatology of 19th Street or request an appointment online.