The severity of your eczema can often be a result of the environment in which you live. Although we know the tendency to develop eczema is hereditary, many factors that trigger eczema are in fact environmental. Our diet is only one aspect of our lives that may trigger an eczema flare up. We are surrounded by potential triggers in every aspect of our lives.
Although anything can trigger eczema it simply depends on what each individual is sensitive to. There are however some things that more commonly cause eczema flare ups:
- Dust Mites
- Pets and Dander
- Cleaning Products
Dust mites live off organic debris and their preferred diet is skin cells. Dust mites can therefore be found everywhere humans are. They are most abundant where dead human skin cells are most plentiful – bedding, rugs, upholstered furniture. They thrive in warm moist environments.
Dust mite are also very resilient. They can survive in warm soapy water and can withstand freezing temperatures for up to 5 hours. Bedding and furnishings should therefore be laundered regularly in the hottest water possible and then put through the hottest cycle of the clothes dryer (that the product can withstand).
The most effective way to keep your environment as dust mite free as possible is to vacuum regularly, launder clothes and soft toys in hot water regularly and replace what ever can’t be laundered with that which can be laundered easily in hot water.
Also damp dust regularly and replace carpet with tiles or floor boards that will not harbour dust mite and use mats that can be taken outside and shaken.
Pets and Dander
For the eczema sufferer there may be good points and bad points about having a pet. Pets often trigger eczema flare ups. The aspects most commonly triggering allergy are pet fur, dander (dried skin), urine and saliva.
However the benefits of owning a pet are well documented. They provide company, decrease stress, provide hours of endless pleasure and distract from worries. These benefits are important for your eczema.
Allergic to Pet or Product?
Of course if you are actually allergic to your pet the disadvantages may outweigh the advantages. But before you send your beloved pet off to a new home check that it is your pet you are allergic to and not the products you are using to care for him. It is not uncommon for pet shampoo or flea care products to cause an allergic reaction and not the fur or the pet himself.
If you choose to have a pet select your pet carefully. Perhaps a goldfish would be a better alternative. If it is a cat or dog that you are wanting select one that does not malt, keep him clean and well groomed. Don’t allow him to sleep on your bed or chairs and wash your hands after contact. Try to keep your pet outside or buy one that can be kept in a cage.
Chemicals and detergents are found everywhere in modern society. Our lives are filled with artificial cleaning agents designed to clean our homes, our clothes, our bodies.
The problem is they dry the skin, stripping it of its natural oils and they are commonly the cause of allergic reactions especially in contact dermatitis and the cause of many a flare up in atopic eczema.
Wear gloves when washing the dishes or cleaning using any chemicals. Cotton liners under rubber gloves will help to prevent irritation from the rubber.
Wash your hands after using chemicals and always remoisturise after having your hands in water. Try to select cleaning agents that are less harsh on your hands and our environment.
Use a mild detergent to wash your clothes in. Don’t chop and change your detergent. It is usually the detergent residue left in the clothes after washing rather than the detergent itself that irritates the skin so wash your clothes, towels and bedding twice – Once in detergent and once in plain water as an extra rinse.
We have become a society with obsessive personal hygiene. Over washing or prolonged exposure to water strips the skin of its natural oils resulting in dry, cracked skin. This is a problem for anyone but for the eczema sufferer it is a major problem. Dry skin coupled with a sensitivity to many of the additives found in our personal cleaning agents often triggers an eczema flare up.
There are many soap substitutes available that make using soaps unnecessary. Try using a cleansing bar, body wash, skin cream or emulsifying ointment. These non soap cleansing lotions have a neutral pH and are unperfumed.
Avoid using perfumes or after shave lotions that are scented. Choose deodorants that are natural or manufactured for sensitive skin. It may take some trial and error but it is worth shopping around to find the products that best suit your skin.
Outdoors and Pollen
Pollen is commonly associated with allergic reactions, especially those involving asthma and hay fever, but it can be a problem for eczema sufferers as well. It is from mid spring until the end of summer that pollen is a major problem.
The idea then is to minimise your exposure to pollen. This can be done by:
- Change clothes when coming inside and shower to remove any specks of pollen.
- Keep windows shut during the summer months.
- Consider replacing lawns with pebbles or paving or use garden soxx to reduce allergy.
- If you must keep a lawn have some one else mow if for you and avoid mowing on windy days.
- Avoid having plants in your garden that are known allergen-producing plants.