Study after study has demonstrated that both allergies and eczema are closely linked. If you suffer from eczema as a child, then you are far more likely to suffer from allergies as an adult. Not only this, but if parents suffer from seasonal allergies or eczema, then their child are most likely going to suffer from it too.
It is probably worth pointing out at this point that scientists have yet to 100% drill down the link between allergies and eczema. They know it exists, but they are not 100% sure why the link exists. Obviously, it does have something to do with your immune system, but that is as far as researchers have managed to get thus far.
Hopefully, we are going to try and answer a few questions on this page, just to give you a bit more of an understanding about what is going on.
What is eczema?
Eczema is not a single skin condition. It is the name given to several different skin conditions which have similar symptoms, although they do vary in severity. The most common type is atopic dermatitis. If you suffer from this, then you will notice that a dry, red, and itchy rash forms on your body.
The most regular sufferers of eczema are children, although adults can also suffer from the condition. In most cases, the symptoms will disappear by the age of about six. Around 50% of children who suffer from eczema will have no symptoms after they hit their teenage years. If the skin condition does persist into adulthood, then it is likely that the symptoms will be a milder. It is very rare that an adult will suffer from eczema for the ‘first time’. If they do have the condition, it will likely have started during flare-up.
The Connection Between Eczema and Allergies
As we mentioned previously; researchers are still studying the link between the two. We can’t step on their toes here as we are not researchers, just well-informed people about eczema.
It is worth noting that eczema is not an allergy. Well, most types at least. However, eczema can flare-up as a result of coming into contact with allergens. As you may know, when you come into contact with allergens, your immune system is ‘switched on’. In most cases, you probably would not notice this. However, in some people the immune system is kicked up a gear. It attacks the allergens like they are the biggest threat to your body, even though most of them are harmless. This leads to:
- Running nose
There are several types of allergen out there. The most common ones will be: pollen, dust mites, pet dander, and certain foods. Children may suffer from allergies to certain foods when they are younger (milk, eggs and nuts), but these may disappear as they get older.
Now, back to the link. In the past, scientists believed that eczema was caused by an allergy. We now know that it is not. In fact, it is much more complicated than anybody first thought. It is important that we eventually work out why eczema occurs as it is the solution towards treating it. There are a few suggestions about what it could potentially be:
- Genes: many people who suffer from eczema have a gene flaw. This gene flaw causes them to lack a certain type of protein in their body. This is called filaggrin, and it can be found on the skin. It is this protein which forms a protective layer on the skin. Researchers believe that the lack of filaggrin in the body means that allergens are able to get onto the skin a bit easier. This is what causes the flare-ups. This may be why people who regularly deal with allergies, particularly to certain chemicals, are more likely to suffer from eczema.
- In some people, there are other defects on the skin barrier. Researchers have found that certain people have very small gaps in their skin. This causes it to dry out very quickly. Then it dries out, it is far easier for the germs and allergens to get into the body. It is these allergens which result in the redness and swelling associated with eczema. Not only this, but some researchers believe that there is also a problem with white blood cells when this happens. These white blood cells release chemicals which could cause an outbreak. This explains why people with eczema have an outbreak.
- Antibodies: the final thing researchers are looking into is whether people with eczema have too many antibodies in their body. In fact, they know that people with eczema tend to have a higher than normal count. They believe that this may play a role in the condition.
Avoid Allergy Triggers
Of course, to combat this it is important that you try to avoid allergens which are causing your condition in the first place. Here are a couple of suggestions:
- Keep a journal of where and what you were doing when an eczema flare-up is triggered. If you do this, then eventually you can start painting a picture about what may be causing your condition in the first place. Ideally, if you can, then you should bring this journal along to your doctor who may be able to shed some light on what your triggers are.
- If you do discover something that irritates your skin, then make sure you steer clear of it. It is worth noting that the allergens will be different for everybody. We suggest that you do as much as possible to avoid some of the more common allergens, however. For example; opt for a dust-proof mattress, remove the carpets in your home, and try to avoid animals.
- You should also avoid things which could potentially irritate your skin. For example; if you are using chemicals then you should be wearing gloves. Steer clear of cigarette smoke, and avoid wearing certain fabrics e.g. wool. Read more about eczema triggers