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Environmental allergens and eczema
Allergens are substances that can cause the body to respond abnormally, this is also known as an allergic reaction.”
Identifying an environmental allergen can sometimes feel like looking for a needle in a haystack! Unlike food allergies or reactions to skincare products and detergents which are easier to identify through elimination, traces of environmental allergens can be difficult to see and can appear anywhere however careful you are to eliminate them.
The list of environmental allergens is long, and can affect eczema sufferers to varying degrees at different times.
Pet fur, hair, dander, saliva, urine and pollen that gets trapped in your pets hair can all trigger eczema flare-ups. Some pets can aggravate symptoms more than others, but typically cats, dogs and horses are regular culprits, particularly long-haired varieties. Try to keep pets out of bedrooms if possible, and vacuum well and wash bed sheets regularly.
House dust mites
It is believed that up to 1 in 5 of us have an allergy to dust mites. They thrive in warm, humid conditions, living in mattresses, carpets and soft furnishings. To reduce the numbers of house dust mites; reduce the amount of soft furnishings, throws and cushions in your house, avoid dried flowers and ornaments that trap dust, use cotton bedding that can be washed often at 60 degrees centigrade, have as little upholstered furniture as possible and remove carpets where possible from bedrooms. Again, vacuum well and wash linens regularly.
Reduce exposure to pollen by keeping windows shut and keep the fan vents closed in your car especially mid-morning and late afternoon when pollen count is high. If you have been outside, take a quick shower when you come back inside to remove pollen from your skin and hair.
Mould can grow anywhere there is high humidity or damp environment, so is often found in bathrooms and kitchens. Mould releases spores and these can trigger eczema. Spores are microscopic particles which are released into the atmosphere, which can then land on the skin causing a reaction. Keep your house well ventilated, and ensure your immediate environment doesn’t support mould growth. If possible, vent your tumble drier to the outside, and avoid drying washed clothes indoors and over radiators.
Chlorine in water
Water alone can be harsh on eczema skin, so add chlorine into the mix and for some it’s a recipe for disaster. After swimming rinse your skin well and apply a moisturiser while the skin is still moist. If you have the luxury of an ozone pool near you, give that a try to see if the reduction in chlorine helps. Try to avoid swimming altogether in the winter when the skin is at its driest, and see what impact that has.
Fabrics & clothing
Synthetic fabrics can irritate your skin, so opt for natural cottons when you can. Avoid wool and cashmere as much as possible, as the short course hairs can scratch and agitate your skin.
The dry winter air can cause flare ups of eczema, as the heating gets turned up indoors and the temperature and humidity drops outside. Summer creates a different set of problems, when humidity and heat rises and you may sweat more which can aggravate your skin.
Environmental allergens are probably the most difficult to eliminate in your day to day life because many are outside of your control. Unless your allergy is particularly severe, it’s also unlikely you will be able to pinpoint a specific culprit.
Take a systematic approach to tackling these potential allergens and make small changes each day, week and month. Gradually replace your clothes with natural cotton garments as you need to rather than buying an expensive new wardrobe in one shopping trip, replace cleaning products with natural alternatives as your old ones run out and switch to natural cotton bedding when you next redecorate. When it comes to environmental allergens, every little does help, so if you are aware of a link between eczema and something in your surroundings that you can’t verify, make small changes regularly so you can edge towards a solution.