Eczema is a dry, red, itchy skin condition. It affects approximately 10% of the population in the United States, it is most commonly found in children, but it can affect adults as well. Eczema or atopic dermatitis is often triggered by food or environmental allergens. Contact dermatitis is a reaction to allergens and irritants such as soap, detergents, scratchy clothes or nickel jewelry. Here we discuss common eczema triggers.
- Dry Skin– it is important to keep the skin moisturized. Moisturizing a baby’s skin from birth may help prevent eczema from developing. Some people have a filaggrin mutation that causes their skin to lose moisture and absorb bacteria more easily.
- Food Allergies– this is a common trigger especially for children less than 2 years old. The most common triggers in children are milk, eggs, wheat and soy.
- Environmental Allergies– for children above 2 years of age, eczema can be related to pollens, mold, pets or dust mites. Treatment involves aggressive moisturizing, antihistamines and topical steroids. Skin testing can help determine which allergens to avoid. Some patients do allergy shots (or drops), although its efficacy is controversial for atopic dermatitis.
- Contact allergies– adult onset eczema can be triggered by something they come into contact with on a regular basis, such as jewelry, latex, chemicals in cosmetics or skin products. The workplace environment can also play a role in triggering eczema too.
- Skin irritants– some soaps, detergents, fragrances and wool can irritate sensitive skin. Cigarette smoke can also irritate the skin.
- Heat– it can dry the skin and cause sweating, which are both eczema triggers.
It is important during bathing to use lukewarm water, dry the skin gently and then apply an ointment or cream to seal in the moisture. Prescription creams, pills and injectable medications may be necessary in more severe cases.
If you think your child has eczema, schedule an appointment with an allergist or dermatologist to discuss treatment options.
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