Eczema is often called the “itch that rashes.” This is because exposure to triggers often causes the patient to feel a sensation of itch, but it is not until the patient scratches their skin that the rash actually appears. Eliminating known triggers of eczema is therefore an important part of managing eczema because the more a patient scratches, the worse their eczema will become.
Potential Eczema Triggers
Associated with direct contact
- Toiletries containing alcohol, astringents, or fragrances
- Harsh detergents/soaps
- Abrasive clothing (wool or synthetics)
Associated with physiologic/emotional stressors
- Infections (especially from Staph aureus, viruses, fungi, etc.)
- Inhalant allergens (house dust mites, pollens, and animal allergens)
- Psychological stress
Associated with foods
- Food allergies are more common in children with eczema, especially those with more severe eczema. Food allergies can sometimes be triggers of the disease, or more commonly, are just secondary problems associated with the eczema.
- Food allergy testing can be performed with skin prick tests or with blood tests (for specific IgE). Unfortunately, positive blood tests only identify an allergy correctly 25 percent of the time, with many individuals having positive tests, but fortunately no true clinical allergy. Negative tests are rather reliable at telling someone they do not have a food allergy.
- Certain individuals are recommended to undergo food allergy evaluation.
- Food commonly allergens found in:
- Cow’s milk
- Tree nuts (e.g. walnuts, cashews)
- Foods processed with any of the above