If you have eczema, you’re not alone: Over 31 million people in the United States have some form of this chronic inflammatory skin condition — and the unrelenting itchiness that defines it. Luckily, you can control eczema with a comprehensive management plan that emphasizes:
Reactive eczema care involves treatments, therapies, and skin care techniques that alleviate symptoms and prevent infection during a flare-up; proactive care helps you identify and avoid the triggers that lead to a symptom flare-up in the first place.
An eczema flare-up refers to the return of persistent itchiness, dry skin, rashes, scaly patches, weeping blisters, infection, and other symptoms following a sustained period of relief. An eczema episode can make lighter skin look red, inflamed, and flaky, and leave darker skin marred by brown, purple, gray, or ashen patches.
When eczema symptoms flare after a period of remission, it’s usually because of a specific trigger. Common eczema triggers include stress, dry skin, sweat, sunburns, hot, cold, dry, or windy weather, allergens, and irritants.
The first step in avoiding eczema triggers is identifying the factors that seem to play a role in your symptom flares. After all, you can’t avoid your triggers if you don’t know what they are.
Using a journal to track the various factors surrounding every eczema flare can go a long way in helping you figure out your triggers. Sometimes, you may find that your triggers affect you in your home environment. Let’s take a closer look at common at-home triggers and how to avoid them:
Overly dry skin is a strong eczema trigger, so it’s critical to keep your skin moist — especially in the winter when the air is drier (even here in Florida). Besides sticking with your prescribed skin care routine and regular moisturizer use, you may find it helpful to use a humidifier in your main living areas and your bedroom.
When temperatures drop low enough to turn on the heat, keep the thermostat below 70 degrees Fahrenheit so you don’t inadvertently dry out your skin.
If you suffer from allergies — as most people with eczema do — the substances you’re allergic to can also double as eczema triggers. This category of triggers includes contact allergens like dyes, fragrances, and preservatives found in laundry detergent or personal care products; it also includes airborne allergens like dust, mold, animal dander, and pollen.
Find dye-free, fragrance-free, eczema-friendly personal care and cleaning products, and stick with products that work well for you. Keep your house as clean as possible by using the “wet dusting” method to keep dust mites in check, washing hard flooring often, and using a vacuum with excellent filtration.
Contact with an irritant that prompts an inflammatory skin reaction often triggers eczema flare-ups. Dry air is one type of contact irritant; sweat, sunlight, itchy fabrics, pool chlorine, harsh detergents, cleaners, and soaps are other common irritants.
Knowing your personal contact irritants is essential to controlling them, which may mean ensuring that your outdoor spaces offer shade from the sun or that you use chlorine alternatives to keep your backyard pool clean. Any time you discover a likely contact irritant, take steps to avoid it.
Bedding is an important part of your home environment; numerous potential eczema triggers — dust mites, stiff or synthetic bedding materials, and irritating detergent residues — can induce an eczema symptom flare on multiple levels.
To ensure the bed you sleep in won’t trigger an itchy, irritating eczema episode, choose bedding made from soft, breathable materials (100% cotton is best), consider putting anti-allergenic covers on your mattress and pillows, and wash your sheets and blankets weekly with dye-free, fragrance-free detergent made for sensitive skin.
Stress is a significant eczema trigger for many people. Learn to recognize your major life stressors — those that originate at home and those you bring home from elsewhere — and find ways to lessen or manage them. Exercise, meditation, therapy and hobbies are helpful techniques to control stress.
Are you ready to gain the upper hand over recurrent eczema flares? We’re here to help. Call your nearest Florida Dermatology Associates office in Palm Bay, Cocoa Beach, Cocoa, Melbourne, Titusville, or Rockledge, Florida, today, or click online to book an appointment any time.