What is Causing Your Eczema to Flare?

What is Causing Your Eczema to Flare?

Anne Fairchild McVey

What is Causing Your Eczema to Flare?

Does your skin have red, thick, itchy patches or small bumps that ooze fluid and crust over if scratched? Is the itch unbearable at times? You most likely have eczema. Eczema is more than just an itchy skin rash. Eczema is indicating that your immune system is reacting to an allergen.

Learning what is causing the reaction can really help minimizing the symptoms of eczema. An allergist can help you determine your eczema triggers/allergens. If you do a little detective work, you can start to figure out what might be causing your eczema flares. Avoiding your allergens/irritants can not only improve your skin, but improve your quality of life. Below are some common allergen/irritants that could be flaring your eczema.

Foods or Ingested Allergens:

Eczema can be caused by certain foods or food allergens. This is more common in babies and young children. There is new research that suggests 1/3 to 2/3 of eczema suffers also have food allergies. Food allergies cause an allergic reaction that results in a variety of symptoms including eczema. Below are some of the food groups that can trigger eczema.

  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Soy products
  • Wheat or gluten

  • The best way to discover if you have a food allergy is to see an Allergist. Talk to your doctor about seeing an Allergist. An Elimination Diet can be very helpful in determining a food allergen or eczema trigger. Eliminating a food group entirely and watching your eczema can be very helpful. For example, if you cut dairy out of your diet for a week or two and the eczema improves, you can pinpoint that dairy is an eczema trigger. Only cut one food group out at a time or you will not know the trigger. Please visit WebMD for more information on an Elimination Diet (


    Chemicals, fragrances, soaps, household cleaners can all be potential irritants that cause your eczema to flare. Every eczema sufferer has their own list of irritants. Below are some common irritants to consider avoiding or watching if they cause an eczema flare so you can avoid in the future.

  • Soaps, detergents, dishwashing liquids
  • Shampoos, body washes, bubble bath, purfume
  • Disinfectants like chlorine

  • It is best to use products that have the National Eczema Association’s Seal of Acceptance. Please visit their website for a list of approved products at (  Removing an eczema irritant/allergen can be a simple as changing your shampoo or laundry detergent and wearing gloves while cleaning and using certain cleaning products.  Again, check out the National Eczema Association for the best products to use if you are an eczema sufferer.

    Environmental Allergens:

    Environmental allergens are substances in the environment and when you are exposed to them you have an allergic reaction and an eczema flare. An example is: after running in the grass you get itchy, inflamed feet and ankles or after petting a cat you get itchy, watery eyes and possibly hives then have eczema the next day.

    Below are some common environmental allergens that can affect your eczema:

    ▪ Pets: Animals such as cats and dogs can cause an eczema flare. WebMD has a very interesting article on pets and eczema (

    ▪ Dust mites. Does your eczema itch worse at night when you are in bed?  Dust mites are a known eczema allergen.  Incasing your bedding and removing carpet and dust collecting items from your home can really improve your eczema. Please watch this helpful video on dust mites and incasings (  Wearing anti-itch eczema clothing can also help nighttime itching.  Visit for specialty medical anti-itch eczema clothing.

    ▪ Pollens: Does your eczema or your child’s eczema get worse at certain times of the year? If yes, pollen may be an eczema trigger. It may help to stay inside when the pollen counts are high and shut your windows and turn on the air conditioner. After spending time outside, rinse off in the shower to remove pollen and change your clothes.  Also, talk to your doctor about Benadryl, it can bring relief to seasonal allergies and eczema.  It is important to speak to your child's doctor about dosage. 

    ▪ Molds: If you have eczema symptoms year round or if they get worse in damp, humid weather, mold may be a trigger. Basically, if you smell mold, you have mold and need to get rid of it. Mold in basement walls, crawl spaces, a damp carpet, in the bathroom or behind bathroom tiles and even in walls can aggravate eczema. Please visit this government website for more information on mold in your home

    Extreme Temperatures:

    ▪Hot, humid weather.  During summer months, eczema flares are very common in the folds of skin inside elbows and behind the knees. Eczema sleeves that cover these common areas can help prevent eczema flares by wicking moisture away from these skin folds and keeping skin healthy by reducing bacteria.  These eczema sleeves work great under sweaty uniforms during summer football, baseball, softball and summer outdoor activities.  Visit for eczema sleeves.

    ▪Sweat in hot, humid weather.  Make sure to rinse off immediately after sweating with lukewarm water if sweat aggravates your eczema.

    •Cold, dry winter weather.  The Soak and Seal Method is very beneficial for individuals that suffer from eczema in dry winter weather.  Below is a diagram for the simple Soak and Seal Method.  Also, wet wrap therapy for eczema is also very beneficial for dry winter eczema.  Wet wrap therapy infuses much needed moisture and emollients into the dry cracked eczema and repairs the skin barrier while calming the itch.  Recent research reports a reduction of eczema symptoms by 70% with just 5 easy treatments.  For optimum results, make sure to use specific wet wrap therapy garments that are registered with the FDA.  Some companies sell these products illegally in the U.S.


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