Eczema is uncomfortable and unsightly. But is eczema seasonal? It can be. Read on to discover how your eczema triggers and eczema symptoms can change with the seasons and why some people have seasonal eczema while others get flares all year long.
Seasonal Eczema Triggers
Eczema is as personal as your DNA. That means your triggers may not be the same as your aunt’s triggers. Even though you share DNA and eczema something as simple as living at a different latitude can impact your eczema symptoms. Identifying your triggers can be a challenge because sometimes the symptoms can come on hours after exposure. This makes seasonal eczema even a greater challenge to control.
If you have had formal allergy testing, anything that resulted in a reaction can be a trigger. In addition, your eczema can be triggered by:
- Personal care products
Let’s see how triggers can change with the seasons.
Does your stress levels change with the seasons? If so, then yes, your eczema can be seasonal if it is triggered by stress. Does the first day of school fill you with dread? Are you afraid that the others will notice your skin? If so, this stress can actually trigger eczema starting a vicious cycle. Are you a Mom or Dad that stresses with the back to school routine of the morning rush, lunches, and after-school activities and homework? Your eczema may return each Fall, just as the kids return to school.
If the winter holidays leave you stressed, your eczema can be affected. Not only is the humidity low (we’ll cover that in a minute) but if stress of shopping, parties, decorating, and family activities too high, your eczema can be triggered.
The relative humidity is the relationship between the dew point and the amount of moisture in the air. When the humidity is low, your skin is stressed. Eczema can flare or an existing flare can worsen.
But, if low humidity is bad, is high humidity good? Not necessarily. When humidity is high, it’s hard for perspiration to evaporate. And anyone with eczema knows that sweating can make you itch and make eczema unbearable. Ironically, it is the sodium in the sweat that drys and irritates your skin. Sweat is one of the times that moisture is bad for eczema – the other is hot water.
So, if your eczema seems to change with the seasons, it may be changing in response to humidity levels.
Some fabrics can trigger eczema or make it worse. The lanolin in wool is a common allergen. Wearing wool can cause an allergic reaction that triggers your eczema. In addition, polyester or other fabrics that don’t breathe can cause you to get hot and trap sweat.
Most people don’t wear wool in summer, so if your eczema is triggered by wool you may only notice it in the winter. While the wool is a year-around trigger, you only experience it in the colder months when you and the people around you are wearing wool.
Personal Care Products
Many of the ingredients in personal care products trigger eczema. If you only use sunscreen in the summer, it may be the sunscreen and not the sun that’s triggering your eczema.
Deep conditioning treatments for hair in the winter can contain parabens or formaldehyde that trigger eczema. Even your choice of skincare products is important when you have eczema. If you find a cream such as Vanicream Ointment, Lotion, or Cream that works, then stick with it year-round. If you change your personal care products with the seasons, you might find you trigger your eczema.
It might not be the wool that’s triggering your eczema, it could be what you’re using to wash the wool. Or, if you wear clothing that has been dry cleaned in the Fall and Winter more than the Spring and Summer, you may find your eczema appears seasonal. That’s because the dry cleaning chemicals trigger your eczema.
Combating Seasonal Eczema Symptoms
Whether your eczema symptoms are seasonal or not, there are a few things you can do to prevent eczema flares and reduce symptoms once you have a flare.
Don’t scratch. This is much easier said than done. Scratching only makes your skin more irritated and soon you are stuck in an itch-scratch cycle. The central nervous system modulates the sensation of itch and the desire to scratch. It can even happen when you sleep. Stress only makes itching worse. The use of cognitive-behavior therapy and biofeedback can help retrain the behavior and reduce stress. Wearing therapeutic viscose clothing to bed protects the skin from scratching while you sleep.
Topical therapy. Emollients and corticosteroid creams protect the skin and maintain its moisture barrier. Avoid products with parabens, formaldehyde, or formaldehyde releasers. Read the labels of all your personal care products. This includes shampoos and conditioners.
Maintain constant body temperature. Don’t get too hot or too cold. Sweating makes symptoms worse, so towel off frequently when you exercise. Exposure to cold air is drying to the skin. Wear loose, comfortable clothing and avoid fabrics that irritate. Seamless therapeutic silk underclothes puts a protective barrier between you and the fabrics you wear and keeps body temperature constant.
Know how to bathe. Never use hot water on your skin. Bathe or shower with warm or tepid water. It’d not necessary to bathe the entire body every day, especially in winter. Washing face, armpits, and groin/genital areas between showers or baths are better for your skin. Never rub the skin dry with a towel. Gently pat dry. Apply topical therapy (moisturizers or creams) while skin is still slightly damp for best results.
Avoid triggers. If you don’t know your seasonal eczema triggers, its time for a visit to the allergist or immunologist. Testing can identify foods and environmental substances that trigger your eczema. Once you know what triggers the symptoms, you will know what to avoid. For example, if ragweed pollen triggers your eczema, you know to monitor pollen counts and stay inside on days when pollen is high.