Eczema is one of the world's most common, non-contagious skin conditions. You most likely know someone who has suffered from the condition, or perhaps you, yourself have experienced the dreadfully itchy disease which causes your skin to become inflamed, red and uncomfortable. Although there is no known cure for eczema, there are countless treatments and tips which can help reduce the inflammation, itchiness and improve your quality of life.
People are often misinformed about the link between their;s or their child’s eczema and food intolerances, often cutting out whole food groups because of what they’ve heard in passing. The truth is that food intolerances aren’t the most common cause of eczema but rather the other way around, eczema can sometimes cause food intolerances. The National Eczema Society writes:
“Recent research has identified that a weakened skin barrier, which is a main feature of eczema, can lead to food sensitisation through the skin – so rather than a food allergy causing the eczema, the food allergy may be a consequence of the child already having eczema. Some foods irritate the skin by coming into contact with it – for example, acidic, spicy or salty foods, tomatoes and tomato-based sauces can all irritate the skin, but this is not the same as a food allergy. Applying an emollient as a barrier cream around the mouth before eating can help to protect the skin. Gently washing the hands and around the mouth after eating, and then re-applying an emollient, will help to calm it down.”
Even though food intolerances aren’t the leading cause of eczema it is still worth looking into cutting back on food produce like milk, dairy and sugar as they can be inflammatory to both your skin and your digestive system, but make sure you consult with a doctor or nutritionist before cutting food groups out of your diet.
One of the main triggers of eczema can be your environment. This can be anything from how you wash your clothes, what fabrics you’re wearing and how you clean and tidy your home. Something as small as putting your clothes on another rinse and spin cycle before drying them, can really help improve your eczema symptoms. Some other tips for keeping your clothes and your home an eczema friendly zone are:
- Try and keep soft furnishings to a minimum. Thick carpets, fluffy pillows and heavy curtains all attract dust mites and their droppings can irritate eczema.
- Improve the airflow in your home by opening up some windows.
- When washing soft furnishings and clothing make sure you are not over stuffing your machine as it is harder to wash away washing liquid residue.
- Washing at a high temperature of at least 60 degrees will kill dust mites.
- Make sure you are regularly cleaning your washer and dryer to ensure no residue or dust is left inside.
- Avoiding washing liquid and soaps with strong scents or harsh chemicals.
Heat can trigger a flare up of itchiness, so it’s worth considering this when you choose what clothes to wear. Natural fabrics such as silk, cotton and loose linen are preferable to man-made fabrics like polyester which can cause the body’s temperature to rise. When it is cold, avoid itchy fabrics like wool, and dress in layers so that you can control your body temperature yourself.
There is a strong link between stress, your mental health and eczema. The constant discomfort caused by eczema can make you feel miserable, sometimes interrupting your sleep cycle and causing you to avoid going out with friends if you’ve got a significantly visible flair up. Eczema can contribute towards your mental health taking a negative turn. The National Eczema Association writes:
“First, it’s important to understand the scientific link between eczema and stress. When we experience a stressful situation, the body goes into fight-or-flight mode and responds by increasing production of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. But when the body produces too much cortisol, it can suppress the immune system and cause an inflammatory response in the skin. People living with skin diseases like eczema are particularly susceptible to this inflammatory response.”
This link between stress and eczema can be a vicious cycle, and one that needs to be broken quickly. If you feel like your eczema is contributing to your stress levels or vice versa, it is important to reach out for help. Your first step for getting help and gaining insight would be to book an appointment with your GP, who can advise you on eczema treatment options and offer help for your mental health.
There are a variety of treatments, lifestyle changes, over the counter remedies or prescription medications/creams and it is a good idea to consult a GP, dermatologist or skincare expert to determine the best route for you.
Managing the condition and its symptoms can help to minimise its impact.
- Know your eczema triggers (some of them may have been described above) and do all you can to avoid them or minimise their impact
- Implement a regular bathing and protective moisturising routine
- Use over the counter or prescribed medication and medical grade skincare products as advised by your skincare professional
- Watch out for signs of skin infection such as pus-filled bumps, pain, redness or heat
- Avoid dehydration and protect your skin barrier