Hello Beauty Mates! I am so excited to introduce you to today’s guest poster: Mei, also known as MarcieMom of EczemaBlues.com. After living with eczema herself, Mei gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who started suffering with severe eczema at only 2 weeks of age. Getting her baby back to a comfortable place was Mei’s biggest mission, and a driving force behind her blog, Eczema Blues. Mei is an expert on all things eczema, and I could not think of a more perfect person to bring you this exclusive post about preventing eczema flare-ups in the summer. So, without further a do…
Summer can be a difficult season for eczema sufferers with the rise in temperature, increased sun exposure and sweating. Atopic dermatitis, commonly known as eczema, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that is characterized by a defective skin barrier, dryness, itch (pruritus), redness, oozing, weeping or crusted rash (for eczema skin that has secondary infection).
The nature of eczema is that it waxes and wanes, and when there is an increase in rashes, redness and itch, we typically term it as an eczema ‘flare-up’. There are many reasons for eczema flare-ups, ranging from allergens or irritants we come into contact with on our skin, in our food and in the air we breathe. During summer, there are unique situations brought on by the higher temperature and the change in activities we engage in that may trigger eczema flare-ups for you or your child. Here are 5 common eczema triggers in summer and how to limit their effects.
#1 Sweat – Sweat can be an irritant for eczema; from skin expert interviews on my blog, it has been shared “sweat is composed of water, minerals (like sodium and magnesium), lactate, ammonia and various amino acids. It could be one of these compounds, the combination of them, the changing pH of the skin, or even the sweat’s water content that can cause the itching and stinging sensations to some people with eczema”. Another dermatologist advised that the salts from sweat can crystalize into a salty residue that act as an irritant to the skin. In this study, a fungal protein had been identified as an allergen in sweat.
- Eczema Tip: Shower after sports or excessive sweating and moisturize after. For young children who sweat outdoors, but don’t have time for an immediate shower, moisten a soft cloth and wipe the sweat away gently before moisturizing and changing them into a fresh set of clothes. Remember not to take a hot shower, as it is drying for skin. Also, never rub the skin dry (pat dry instead).
#2 Heat – Heat and humidity increase sweat, and some eczema sufferers have reported flare-ups from temperature changes. A cohort study reported a link between warm, humid and high sun exposure climates with poorly controlled eczema. Sun exposure is drying for the skin and can exacerbate an eczema flare-up.
On the other hand, there are some whose eczema get better under the sun. One form of eczema treatment is photo-therapy, where short courses of selected UV rays have been shown to benefit adults suffering from severe eczema. In this study, increased sun exposure during summer holidays in adolescence was associated with reduced eczema. UV light is required for the skin to synthesize vitamin D, which protects against skin infection. This same vitamin has been shown to be deficient in those with severe eczema. Be careful about over exposure to the sun, which causes premature aging, sunburn and skin cancer. (Sunburn in infants should be treated immediately.)
- Eczema Tip: Keep out of direct sun from mid-morning to early evening. When indoors, regulate the temperature with air-conditioning. Be mindful to keep humidity around 40-50% and use a humidifier if the air-conditioner lowers the humidity to below 40% (too low humidity strips moisture from skin).
#3 Irritants – We have heard of how important sunscreen and other sun protection measures are, including wearing a hat, sunglasses (especially important for young children), and light long-sleeve clothing with UV protection. In selecting sunscreen, we know the higher the SPF, the greater the protection (go for SPF 30 to 50) and to choose one that is broad-spectrum. What we hear less, however, is that the sunscreen itself can be an irritant to the skin. Many sunscreen contain fragrances, dyes, preservatives and alcohol and in general. Use sunscreens that are physical blockers with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as active ingredients.
- Eczema Tip: Choose a fragrance-free sunscreen without oxybenzone, dibenzoylmethane, PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid), parabens, propylene glycol, lanolin, avobenzone, cinnamates, salicylates and esters. If unsure which ingredients will irritate your skin, consider taking a patch test to find out.
#4 Summer activities – Summer is a fun time to get together and play sports or just hang out outdoors. Sometimes it is the activity that you engage more in during summer that triggers the eczema flare-up. For instance, while swimming is beneficial for eczema (the chlorine kills staphylococcus aureus bacteria on the skin, which are known to promote skin inflammation), the same chlorine may irritate your skin. Spending time outdoors may mean exposure to insect bites, which can sometimes trigger a rash. Summer fashion shopping may mean that you are trying on new clothes and the dye on new clothes can irritate skin.
- Eczema Tip: If swimming, moisturize your skin (plus sunscreen) before getting into the pool. Shower immediately after swimming and moisturize. To get the benefit of killing staph bacteria, it is recommended to go for 15 to 30 minutes swim few times per week. Wear light long sleeve and have mosquito patch repellent on your clothes or bag (instead of your skin if you are sensitive to it). Always wash new clothes before wearing.
#5 Seasonal allergies – Allergens can affect those who are sensitive to them, either by food, air or on the skin. Certain pollen count is higher during summer and you can find out the pollen count in your state (USA) via the National Allergy Bureau’s website. Other possible changes in summer could be your diet, for instance eating more shellfish, which you might be allergic to.
- Eczema Tip: Take a skin prick test or IgE blood test to determine which allergens affect you.
For those with eczema, moisturizing has been studied to help reduce flare-ups as well as reduce the amount of topical prescription medication. Given the change in weather, you may want to use a lotion or cream instead of ointment if the latter feels ‘sticky’ to you in summer.
This article is contributed by Mei, also known as MarcieMom of EczemaBlues.com. Mei has co-authored the book Living with Eczema: Mom Asks, Doc Answers with her eczema child’s doctor Professor Hugo van Bever and illustrated a children book ‘A to Z Animals are not Scratching!’.