Sports, Exercise and Eczema

Sports, Exercise and Eczema

Elizabeth Scott

Do you or your child love to play sports or exercise but suffer with eczema flares? Sweating is a necessary by product of working out or playing sports, it’s the body’s way of cooling off when it gets too hot. It’s common for eczema to flare in sweat prone areas like underarms, the backs of knees and the inside of elbows and even on the back and chest. 

Exercising in body hugging clothing and playing sports that require heavy layered uniforms like hockey, football and lacrosse can exacerbate eczema as sweat builds up between your skin and the clothing or uniform.  Wearing natural fabrics like cotton may not be the best option to use for work out clothing or as a base layer. Cotton absorbs the sweat and takes a longer time to dry, meaning more time for sweat and bacteria to sit on your skin. Wearing sweaty wet clothes is not good in hot or cold weather especially if you suffer with eczema. It can also make you feel hotter or colder if you have on sweaty clothing.

One way to lessen the build up of sweat under a uniform is to wear a lightweight and breathable fabric layer that can wick sweat away between the uniform and your skin. A layer such as this can help protect sensitive skin from itchy fabrics and reduce the amount of sweat and bacteria left sitting on the skin. Our son has eczema and plays hockey a few times a week. The backs of his knees flare up after wearing the thick socks and pads, so he now wears a pair of AD RescueWear  Wrap-E-Soothe Sleeves made with TENCEL® under his pads. The lightweight sleeves are thin and easy to put on under his uniform.  We also wash and moisturize behind his knees when he gets home and we're happy to see less redness and itchy skin with this routine.

One way to prevent sweat build up while exercising is to wear looser exercise clothing made of wicking, thermo-regulating fabrics.There are many brands available with these properties. In fact, I saw these exercise tops at Target last weekend. 

Here are some tips for exercise and eczema:

  • Apply an emollient to damp skin before exercising or playing sports. It will act as a barrier between your skin and the sweat and fabrics.
  • Wear a lightweight, breathable and wicking fabric as a base layer between your skin and uniform.
  • Choose exercise clothes made with breathable, wicking fabrics that also have thermo-regulating properties.
  • Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise to keep your skin hydrated.
  • Shower immediately after sweating to clean away sweat and bacteria from the skin.
  • Moisturize with an emollient immediately after showering to keep the skin hydrated.

Also, keep in mind that the environment you play sports or exercise in can also aggravate eczema. Shared exercise mats at the gym can harbor bacteria so it’s best to wipe down before using. Itchy grass or field turf and dirt can also irritate. Bring something to sit on during breaks such as a portable chair or blanket and bring a small umbrella or tent to protect you from the hot sun.

If you have eczema there's no need for a time out.  It’s good for your health to keep moving!  And if you or your child has stopped playing sports or exercising because of eczema, talk with a doctor and see how they can help. Don’t let eczema get in the way of a healthy lifestyle!