What Causes Eczema Flare Ups?

November 17,2021

Eczema is a common condition that causes the skin to become itchy, dry, and red. Symptoms of eczema vary from a mild rash that disappears quickly to a more severe condition that is present for a long time.

People with eczema usually have an over-reactive immune system, which can be easily triggered by a substance inside or outside the body, causing inflammation. This inflammation is characterised by painful, red, itchy skin symptoms, developing into a full-blown eczema flare-up.

What is an Eczema Flare-Up?

Eczema flare-up is the return of eczema symptoms, including itchy, red skin rash. Other symptoms include:

  • Gray or reddish-brown inflamed patches usually on feet, neck, chest, hands and the inner bends of the knees and elbows

  • Severe itching, which gets worse at night

  • Dry skin that can get swollen or inflamed upon scratching

  • Small raised bumps that might crust or leak fluid

  • Skin that thickens and cracks

 These symptoms may disappear for a while but can flare up again if you have chronic or long-lasting eczema. The eczema flare-up could also be due to some eczema triggers. In this article, let’s understand what these eczema triggers are and how you can avoid them.

What Causes Eczema Flare-ups: Factors That Trigger Eczema

Eczema affects everyone differently. Your triggers may not be the same as another’s. You might experience eczema symptoms in different areas of your body or at certain times of the year. Some common triggers include:

1. Dry Skin

When your skin becomes too dry, it feels tight, scaly and rough. This increases the chances of an eczema flare. You may have the urge to scratch dry skin, irritating the skin even more.

What to do:

  • Moisturize your skin well, especially in dry climates and in winters.

2. Irritants

Eczema flare-ups can occur in response to certain irritants. These irritants remove the skin’s oils and moisture, thus causing damage to the skin. Continuous damage doesn’t give the skin much time to heal. Hence it can cause irritant contact dermatitis. Common irritants include:

  • Acids (vinegar or lemon juice)

  • Friction

  • Cleanings products, such as biological washing powder or detergents 

  • Artificial fragrances, such as those in cosmetics, bath products or cleaning products

  • Alkalis (baking soda or oven cleaners)

What to do:

  • Immediately rinse the skin after exposure to the irritant.

  • Pat dry and apply an emollient or a barrier cream.

  • Wear protective clothing, such as gloves, to prevent further contact.

3. Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety provoke eczema to flare up. Your itchy, sore skin can also cause you stress. Thus begins the endless cycle until you decide to break it.

What to do:

  • Look for ways to relax when you are stressed. Some activities like yoga, meditation and breathing exercises are known to relieve stress.

  • Get enough sleep at night.

  • Indulge in massage therapy, aromatherapy and warm baths to ease the tension.

  • Seek professional help if your stress isn’t under control.

4. Food Allergies

Food allergies are common. In some individuals, allergies to milk, peanuts, eggs, and wheat, are known to be eczema triggers. You might experience an eczema flare-up after you consume a particular food or ingredient.

What to do:

  • Talk to your doctor or a certified dietician to see if eliminating those foods might help.

5. Environmental Factors or Allergens

Very tiny particles in the air can irritate your skin. You may even be allergic to pet dander from dogs and cats. Or maybe it’s the dust in the house or cigarette smoke to be blamed. Whatever the reason for the flare-up is, you need to identify the trigger and stay away from it.

What to do:

  • Keep your home or office clean, free of dust.

  • Don’t smoke or hang out with people when they are smoking.

  • If the allergy is due to pet dander, talk to your doctor or see an allergist, a doctor who specialises in treating allergies.

6. Hormonal Changes

Some studies suggest that sex hormones may trigger atopic dermatitis. A 2019 article Trusted Source states that a female child is more likely to develop atopic dermatitis after they hit puberty. Experts believe that this could be because of the sex hormones and their impact on the immune system. When testosterone suppresses the T helper 2 cells involved in atopic eczema, the activity of female sex hormones is enhanced. That could be the possible reason why eczema in females improves or worsens at specific points in their pregnancy or menstrual cycle.

What to do:

  • Although the effect of hormones on eczema is largely unavoidable, you can manage the symptoms and identify triggers that could be causing the eczema flares or symptoms.

7. Water Exposure

When you are frequently exposed to water, your skin dries up, increasing the chances of an eczema flare. People who frequently bathe, shower, swim, or regularly wash their hands with soap, hot water, and sanitiser are more likely to have this problem.

What to do:

  • Use gentle soap, suitable for sensitive skin.

  • Wash with warm and not hot water.

  • Moisturise immediately after contact with water.

  • Use disposable or reusable gloves to keep your hands clean.

8. Weather

Cold, hot, humid and dry weather can trigger your eczema.

What to do:

  • If the cold, dry weather is causing eczema flare-up, then keep your skin moisturised at all times.

  • If the hot and humid weather is the reason for eczema to flare up, then wear loose, cotton clothes and stay hydrated to maintain an even temperature and reduce sweating.

9. Microorganisms

Certain types of viruses, bacteria and fungi can trigger eczema. These include Staphylococcus aureus, Malassezia, and Herpes.

What to do:

  • Treat the condition with medications and topical ointments. Your doctor can prescribe these medicines, or you can even take them over the counter. 

  • Avoid scratching.

  • You may need to take antibiotics if there is pus, warmth or swelling.

10. Sweat

Sweating makes the skin moist and increases the body temperature. Hence, it is a common eczema trigger.

What to do:

  • Avoid wearing tight clothes.

  • Wear breathable, natural fibres, such as cotton and linen.

  • Don’t wear sportswear for long periods after exercising. Make sure you wash your sportswear promptly.

11. Detergent and Scented Products

Many laundry detergents and scented products such as lotions, shower gels, soaps, perfumes, etc. that you apply to your body can worsen your eczema and trigger a flare.

What to do:

  • Use hypoallergenic, scent-free brands and closely monitor symptoms after using a new product. If your symptoms worsen, discontinue the use immediately.

12. Saliva

Eczema is very common in babies. Saliva doesn’t cause eczema, but when it dries on the baby’s skin, it can cause itchy, red spots, leading to eczema.

What to do:

  • Apply lotions or creams that are sensitive skin-friendly.

13. Fabrics

The fabrics you wear can be an eczema trigger. Many people are sensitive to fabrics such as wool or polyester, triggering redness and itchiness.

What to do:

  • Don’t wear fabrics that are itchy, rough or too tight. Opt for soft clothes that are gentle on your skin. 

  • Don’t wear too warm clothes or woollen clothes because they make you sweat, instigating a flare.

  • Wear loose clothes that don’t rub against your skin.

Treatment for Eczema Flare-Ups

  1. Avoid likely sources of irritation/eczema triggers.

  2. Use emollients such as special bath oils and moisturisers.

  3. Steroid cream is usually prescribed to stop the itch and clear the rash. Topical creams like Fucibet cream or Dermovate cream can help relieve the symptoms of eczema. Hydrocortisone cream and antihistamines are available over the counter (OTC) to ease mild itching.

The best way to avoid eczema flare-ups is to avoid the triggers and treat them before they worsen. It may take some time to understand what triggers an eczema flare-up, but once you know the cause, it becomes easier for you to manage the skin condition.

Medications play an important role in controlling the symptoms of an eczema flare-up. Don’t make it a habit to suffer in silence when eczema medications are available at a click of a button. Order the recommended medications online on MedsNow today!