Eczema is an irritating and sometimes painful skin condition that often has more than one trigger. It’s more likely to be caused by a mixture of inherited, genetic causes as well as environmental triggers. Studies suggest that if one or both of your parents has eczema, you may be 60% to 80% more likely to be prone to it. Environmental causes may include pollen, dust or dander. The most common type of eczema is atopic eczema, meaning it’s caused by an allergy. In the UK about 1 in every 5 children has this condition. About 60% grow out of it or symptoms get milder as they get older.
Environmental allergen triggers
Allergens are irritants in the environment that may trigger eczema. Common allergens linked to eczema flare-ups include:
These microscopically small creatures thrive on household dust. When dust is stirred up, it can trigger sniffing and sneezing in the millions of people with a dust mite allergy. Most people who are allergic are actually reacting to proteins found in mite droppings. As dust mite allergies are so common, many doctors believe controlling mites could help keep eczema from flaring up.
Pet hair or dander
Our furry friends are the second biggest cause of allergies in UK homes. Proteins on pet dander - the dead skin of pets like dogs and cats - are responsible for allergic reactions. In small pets like hamsters and gerbils, the common allergens are proteins in their urine. Anyone can be allergic to pet dander but if you have eczema it can be made worse and your skin can become inflamed by contact with animals.
People who develop atopic eczema often have a family history of allergic conditions such as asthma or hayfever, triggered by grass, tree or plant pollen. Many people experience flare-ups of eczema during high pollen seasons. A type of eczema known as contact eczema can also be triggered by reactions to certain plants such as primulas and chrysanthemums.
Children with eczema are more susceptible to food allergies. People with food allergies also often have other allergic conditions such as hayfever, asthma or eczema. It’s important to understand that food allergies can trigger eczema or make it worse. So, not eating these foods may significantly improve eczema outbreaks and may help to prevent eczema flare-ups.
Some foods that are associated with triggering eczema include:
As with most food allergies,symptoms usually develop within minutes or hours of consuming milk or products containing milk. One sign of an eczema outbreak can be red itchy skin. If your child reacts immediately this way, he or she will usually test positive in a skin prick test or blood test for the IgE antibody. It’s thought the food reacts with the antibody in most cases. Milk allergy is one of the most common childhood allergies and tends to disappear during childhood.