Allergies & Testing

Is Spring a trigger factor for eczema sufferers?

The short answer is yes.

Eczema flareups can be associated with allergic reactions to environmental substances known as allergens.  In Spring we see a natural increase in environmental allergens.  An allergy is simply a hypersensitivity to often a combination of allergens.  Eczema is a common allergic reaction, so it’s beneficial to understand the environmental substances that trigger a flareup.

A variety of tests now exist to diagnose allergic conditions; these include testing the skin for responses to known allergens or analyzing the blood for the presence and levels of allergen-specific IgE. Treatments for allergies include allergen avoidance, use of anti-histamines, steroids, natural remedies, immunotherapy to desensitize the response to the allergen, and targeted therapy.

Most often you can identify your trigger allergens by eliminating suspected triggers one at a time and monitoring your bodies response.  If you would like to identify the allergens that affect you more quickly, you may want to consider seeing a specialist for a skin test.

Skin Testing

Skin testing is also known as ‘puncture testing’ or ‘prick testing’ due to the series of tiny puncture or pricks made into your skin. Small amounts of suspected allergens and/or their extracts (pollen, grass, mite proteins, peanut extract, etc.) are introduced to sites on the skin.

Common areas for testing include the inside forearm and the back. If the patient is allergic to the substance, then a visible inflammatory reaction will usually occur within 15 – 30 minutes. This response will range from slight reddening of the skin to a full-blown hive (called “wheal and flare”) when the skin is more sensitive to a particular allergen.

Results of the skin prick test is normally done by allergists on a scale of severity, with +/- meaning borderline sensitivity, and 4+ being a large reaction.

Start with your diet

If you want to avoid the ‘prick test’ and think you may know what’s causing your eczema to flare up, spend some time testing yourself.  Eczema sufferers tend to be allergic to a wide range of substances in everyday life that the non-eczema sufferer is not.  For example, food, dust mites, pollen, animals, moulds, drugs, solvents etc to name but a few.

One of the most common and frustrating allergies that an eczema sufferer will face is intolerance to certain foods.  The most common foods that cause problems seem to be dairy products, citrus fruits, fish, eggs, tomatoes and wheat.

Undertaking an elimination diet is a good way to identify suspect foods.  Specialists believe that any food elimination diet should show positive results within about 6 weeks.  If the eczema is improving, it is usual to continue to eliminate the particular food for about a year.  It is advisable however to consult with your GP or dermatologist before undertaking such a change.

Good luck finding out which allergens affect your eczema and once you’ve identified them, try hard to avoid them so you can manage your eczema effectively.

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