What is eczema?
Eczema, also known as “atopic dermatitis,” is a noncontagious, inflammatory skin condition that is characterized by severe itching, redness, oozing, and scaly rashes. These symptoms can be painful, and can cause changes in skin color and blisters. Allergy plays a role in some patients’ eczema.
Eczema comes and goes over time. It results in very dry and sensitive skin, and can be made worse by exposure to many different things, including allergens such as pet dander or dust mites. Other common triggers include cosmetics, soaps, detergents and lotions with heavy fragrances. Exposure to perfumes and cleaning products can also irritate eczema. For some people, weather changes (especially dry winter air), illnesses such as the common cold, or even stress may make eczema worse.
The Eczema-Allergy Connection
Doctors used to think eczema was just a sign of an allergic reaction — your body overreacting to a harmless allergen, like pollen or dander. Now, most agree that eczema is actually a problem with the outer layer of your skin.
Still, they know it’s connected to allergic conditions like food allergies, hay fever, and asthma.
- Up to 80% of kids with eczema get hay fever or asthma later in childhood.
- Thirty-five percent of adults with asthma or nasal allergies had eczema when they were kids.
- If a mom has allergies, there’s almost a 1 in 3 chance their baby will have eczema.
- Thirty-seven percent of kids with moderate to severe eczema also have food allergies.
Most types of eczema are not allergies. But the disease can flare up when you’re around things that cause an allergic reaction. You might get hives, itching, swelling, sneezing, and a runny nose. Allergens can include:
Try to avoid the things that set off your skin symptoms. One way to know if you have an allergy is to see if your skin flares up when you’re exposed to something.
Eczema is particularly common in infants, and an estimated 10 to 20 percent of children have it. It is not contagious and is often hereditary. About 60 percent of those with eczema will experience symptoms by age 1, and another 30 percent will experience symptoms by age 5.
Eczema is associated with the development of food and environmental allergies, and it develops due to a defective skin barrier. Eczema is often inherited, and infants with parents who have allergies or asthma are at highest risk for development.
Management of eczema
People with eczema should avoid harsh cleansers, drink water often, wear gloves in cold weather, and avoid wearing materials such as wool, which could irritate the skin.
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