Identify the various types of eczema triggers in and around the house,
as well as the environment children are exposed to on a daily basis.
Eczema is a condition characterised by inflamed skin after exposure to certain trigger factors.
These triggers are often defined as external substances that irritate the skin and cause flare-ups.
The most common type of eczema is known as atopic dermatitis, or atopic eczema, where the condition is linked to other allergic-related problems such as asthma.
Triggers are not causes of eczema. Rather, these are substances that initiate symptoms.
Similarly, the exact cause of eczema, atopic or otherwise, is unknown.
The closest explanation to why eczema transpires within a person is that external factors (i.e. cold or hot weather, dust, dander, etc) prompt an overactive defensive response from the body’s immune system.
Eczema triggers can be divided into a few different categories, namely, physical irritants, allergens and microbes.
Physical irritants can worsen the symptoms of eczema and may vary from one child to another. They include:
· Soaps and detergents
· Cosmetics and perfume
· Shampoos, dish-washing liquids
· Bubble baths
· Disinfectants like chlorine
· Coarse clothing (Wear it loose, and wear cotton!)
Ensure all cleaning products are kept from the reach of children and choose suitable toiletries for your child (soap, towel etc). It’s always good to prepare a small bag of products you already know works for your child that won’t cause irritation or flare-ups.
Remember, sharing isn’t always caring, especially when it’s itchy.
Allergens are what trigger allergic reactions, besides eczema symptoms. They may also lead to other complications such as asthma and hay fever.
These allergens can be divided into:
· Environmental – house dust mites, dander, pollen, mold, dandruff, etc.
· Food – eggs, nuts, dairy products, soy products, wheat, fresh fruit juice, meats, vegetables, etc.
Your child may have inherited an allergic response to a specific substance from you or your spouse. You may want to assess the extent of the allergy by seeking further medical advice.
Microbes can also trigger eczemic reactions. Some commonly known ones are:
· Bacteria such as the staphylococcus and streptococcal strains.
· The Molluscum contagiosum virus thrives in warm, humid climates and in areas where people live very close to each other.
· Malassezia and candida fungal strains colonising a child’s skin can initiate an inflammatory response.
Although not considered to be triggers, stress and climate conditions can intensify symptoms of eczema.
Adults, and even children, can experience physical, mental or social stresses that can lead to the worsening of eczemic symptoms.
The reason for this remains a mystery, but some experts suggest that certain hormones released during stress, or a reduced immune response of the body may be responsible.
Other illnesses such as the common cold can also cause stress and initiate an eczemic response.
Eczema outbreaks can be avoided, or the severity lessened or managed. Consider these takeaway tips:
· Moisturise frequently with a good choice of moisturiser or cream.
· Avoid sudden changes in temperature or humidity.
· Avoid sweating or overheating; regular baths can help cool down your child.
· Reduce stress and provide good emotional support.
· Avoid scratchy materials, such as wool.
· Avoid harsh soaps, detergents and solvents.
· Be aware of any foods that may cause an outbreak and avoid these foods.
Familiarise yourself with your child’s condition to avoid conditions that may cause a flare-up. You’ll need to know his sensitivities intimately if you are to avoid aggravating his condition.
If you’re sending him to day care or have a caregiver taking care of your child, it’s best to keep them informed as well.
It’s also recommended that you get advice from a paediatrician on managing your child’s eczema.
> This article is published in conjunction with National Eczema Awareness Month 2014, supported by a grant from A. Menarini Sdn Bhd. Part of this initiative includes running a ‘My Eczema Journey’ 30-Day Challenge. Visit https://www.facebook.com/myeczemajourney, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text 012-6609681.