Eczema and other skin conditions during Spring
What is eczema?
Eczema, also known as dermatitis, is a common itchy inflammatory skin condition, often associated with an abnormal skin barrier. It looks different for every person, but you may experience patches of dry scaly skin, small raised bumps, and severe itching. This might occur in just a few small patches or maybe more widely spread across the body.
There are several variants - for instance, allergic contact dermatitis (in which the skin flares up in response to external agents like metals, fragrances, or preservatives) or irritant contact dermatitis (caused by persistent irritation of the skin).
However, the most common type is atopic (allergic) dermatitis, which usually begins in infancy or childhood and affects up to 1 in 3 children, and 1 in 10 adults, in the UK. Although many children find the condition clears up naturally as they get older, many people continue to experience flare-ups throughout their lives.
"It's due to a genetic predisposition which affects the integrity of the skin barrier, and is often associated with a mutation in the so-called filaggrin gene," explains Alexandroff. "As a result, environmental and/or microbial allergens penetrate the skin barrier more easily and cause inflammation of the skin."
This condition is associated with asthma and hay fever, meaning that if you or a family member have one of the three, you're more likely to have the others. A recent Australian study sheds some light on why pinpointing a cluster of genetic risk factors predisposes you to all three allergic conditions.
Despite learning more about the causes, researchers haven't yet developed a cure. This means, that if you or your child have eczema, it's important to work out the individual triggers and adopt strategies for managing the symptoms.
So why does eczema flare-up in the spring?
According to the Eczema Association of Australasia, there are three simple reasons:
- Increase of allergens in the air, such as grass and flower pollens.
- Increase in temperature exacerbates already hot and inflamed skin.
- Increase in temperature means more sweating which can inflame eczema-affected skin.
All of these factors are classic triggers for an eczema flare-up, and while there is, as yet, no cure, there are ways to manage the condition at the onset of spring:
- Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize with an anti-inflammatory moisturizer. And when you’ve finished moisturizing, moisturize some more.
- Wear 100 percent cotton or other soft natural fibers to avoid scratching or irritating the skin.
- Use only hypoallergenic products that do not contain perfumes.
- Reduce stress.
- Try to keep cool to avoid raising too much of a sweat, which can irritate the skin.
- Wear cotton gloves at night to prevent yourself from scratching while you’re asleep.
However, the advent of spring is not all bad news for eczema sufferers. In fact, the increase in sunshine could have its benefits.
A recent study by the University of Edinburgh has found that increased exposure to sunlight may help reduce itchy inflammation. Researchers found that when exposed to UV light, the skin releases a nitric oxide molecule that ‘dampens’ inflammation in eczema-affected skin.
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