Is Eczema Hereditary?

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Eczema which is also referred to as Atopic dermatitis is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition. Hallmarks of eczema include dry, itchy skin with red rashes that may come in flares. It is a common skin disease worldwide. According to research, it may affect up to 30% of children and in some of them, eczema will continue in to adulthood. Although eczema usually appear during infancy and childhood, it can arise in adolescents and adults too, who never had eczema in their childhood.

Eczema is now found to be caused by an interaction of your genes and environmental factors. Most will have a family history, but not everyone with eczema has a genetic link. If you have a sibling or a parent who has eczema, then there is a higher chance for you to develop eczema too. Is this because of the role that genetics play in eczema? So the question arises if eczema is hereditary. Let us find out.

Scientific evidence is strong in supporting the genetic predisposition for development of eczema. Multiple research done worldwide proves that the evidence of gene mutations in several genes may play a role in causing eczema. In this article we will further discuss how eczema becomes hereditary and the research evidence for the relationship between eczema and genetics.

Does research, point towards a relationship between your genetics and eczema? Eczema, is it hereditary?

Birth cohort studies are ideal to assess the health outcome from birth in to childhood with regards to eczema. Given the age specific emergence of eczema, it provides that eczema can be in fact hereditary.

Research data indicates that several genes may be associated in developing eczema. A research review done in 2010 analyzed the whole human genome. Several genes were found to significantly alter the function and composition of skin in patients with eczema. There is an allergic or an inflammatory response in eczema. Some genes affect the immune system leading to this inflammatory response. The other genes will impact specifically on the eczematous skin.

Genes coding for the function of our skin

Our skin has 3 layers – the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis. Epidermis is the outermost layer which is responsible in maintaining the barrier function of our skin. If your skin barrier is healthy, it will support retention of moisture as well as protecting your body from foreign substances that can harm us, such as allergens, bacteria and toxins.

A gene called the FLG gene, instructs the skin cells to make a large protein named ‘Filaggrin’ in the epidermis. Filaggrin plays an important role in barrier function of our skin. It connects the structural proteins in the outermost skin cells and form tight bundles. Filaggrin strengthens the skin cells and create a strong barrier for protection. Research shows that the FLG gene has a mutation in the DNA sequence in about 50% of patients with eczema. Therefore, specific instructions are not given by this defective gene to cells to make filaggrin. Filaggrin is not produced properly when the message is defective. Less Filaggrin will make your skin barrier weak. Epidermis will become dry and unhealthy which will be prone to allergic reactions and infections. When the filaggrin forming gene is mutated and defective, the protective barrier function is lost. This will make you prone for eczema and we can link here if eczema is hereditary.

When there are anomalies in the FLG gene, these people will also be prone to develop asthma and hay fever. This is a classic triad. It is known as atopy. The classic triad of atopy includes eczema, asthma and allergies like hay fever and allergic conjunctivitis. Atopy refers to this genetic tendency to develop allergic diseases and they run in families. These families are known as atopic families. Atopy is typically associated with heightened immune response to many common allergens such as inhaled allergens and food allergens.

In another study, a gene called SPINK5 is also found to be mutated in patients with eczema. This gene is known to instruct skin cells to make proteins. How this mutation in the SPINK5 gene affects to develop eczema is still not clear.

Genes coding for the function of our immune system

The genes that are associated with our immune system include genes forming IL (interleukin) 4, 5 and 13. These genes are found to promote allergy and inflammation. They can cause a reduction in the immune response towards pathogens as well as affecting the skin barrier function.

Interleukin 33 is an inflammatory cytokine that is over expressed in the skin cells of patients with eczema. IL 33 gene stimulates many cells to produce cytokines and create inflammation. It is mainly associated with the itch – scratch cycle of eczema.

Can Eczema be a feature of a separate genetic disorder?

Eczema can be associated with some genetic disorders that have many signs and symptoms including skin abnormalities and immunodeficiency. Examples of such disorders include;

Immune dysregulation, X- linked (IPEX) syndrome, Netherton syndrome, Poly-endocrinopathy, Enteropathy, severe dermatitis, metabolic wasting syndrome (SAM) and multiple allergies.

Are genetics the only reason to get eczema?

Although genetics increases your risk of developing eczema, this is not the only cause. There are many causes that are associated with developing eczema. Usually it is a combination of several causes and risk factors. As mentioned earlier, both genetics and environmental factors play a role in developing eczema.

Here are some of the identified causes and risk factors of eczema;

  • Exposure to cigarette smoke during infancy – smoking indoors and maternal cigarette smoking
  • If the mother went through high levels of psychological stress during the pregnancy, the offspring can be affected
  • If your immune system is defective or over reactive
  • If your skin is very dry and unhealthy
  • Dysfunction of the skin barrier – dysregulation of the immune system may be a cause
  • Certain endocrine disorders like thyroid dysfunction

Now that we know that eczema has a genetic tendency, we will learn more on how an eczema flare occurs.

An eczema flare up is triggered by environmental factors. Once our skin is already at risk to develop eczema because of our genes, many factors can act as triggers to develop a flare.

Environmental triggers for eczema flare-ups include;

  • Irritants such as soap, detergents, cosmetics, perfume, cleaning products, formaldehyde – irritants are found in everyday products we use. One chemical which may act as an irritant to a particular individual to trigger an eczema flare may not be so for another person.
  • Cold air
  • Hot weather and heat
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Airborne allergens
  • Out- door pollutants
  • Fabrics like polyester, wool
  • Certain metals like nickel

You may be having eczema because of your genes, or you still may not have developed any symptoms although you have a strong family history. Naturally you will be worried because of this hereditary tendency, whether you will be a victim of eczema. But if we are careful and we look after our skin well, we should be able to delay onset of eczema or prevent a flare up. if eczema is hereditary we should also not forget environmental triggers could also be the reason.

What can we do to prevent an eczema flare up, even if we are genetically prone?

  • Moisturize and hydrate your skin well
  • Use a humidifier at home when using heaters during winter to prevent dehydration of your skin
  • Manage your stress well by practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation
  • Identify and avoid irritants which can trigger a flare such as wool, certain chemicals and other irritants
  • Avoid using harsh soaps and detergents


Eczema can affect up to 30% of children worldwide. It often afflicts infants in the 1st few months of life. This can be the first indicator of this atopic tendency. Research indicates that eczema or atopic dermatitis has a strong genetic link, so eczema is hereditary. Several genes that affect our immune system and skin function may play a role while environmental factors and stress can trigger eczema. There are many things you can practice to prevent getting a flare. However, once you are genetically prone towards eczema, you may get a flare at some time in your life. Do not get disheartened. Seek treatment early. Although there is no cure for eczema you can successfully manage flares and keep your condition under check, if you stick to your treatment plan and follow up regularly with your dermatologist.







Top eczema triggers to avoid


Although eczema is one of the commonest chronic skin diseases, we still don’t know what exactly causes eczema. Researchers believe that a combination of genetic causes and trigger factors play a role in most types of eczema. You may be born with an increased likelihood of developing eczema because of the genes you inherit from your parents.

Those of you with eczema tend to have an over reactive immune system. It can get triggered by both intrinsic (inside the body) and extrinsic (outside the body) substances. The response to the substance is inflammation. Inflammation leads to red, itchy skin lesions common to most types of eczema.

How does eczema skin differ from normal skin?

Normal skin provides a healthy protective barrier which prevents skin from drying out and fights off infections. This barrier is made by a protein called filaggrin. Research shows that there is a mutation in the gene which creates filaggrin in some people with eczema. As filaggrin is not there to build a strong skin barrier, the moisture from your skin can escape outside leading to very dry skin. Because of the defective barrier, bacteria and viruses can enter in, making your skin infection prone.

The goal of eczema management is to keep your symptoms under control. You have to feel comfortable and stay healthy while living with eczema, because eczema has no cure and it can cause flares from time to time. Prevention of getting a flare can be challenging. To prevent a flare we have to identify the potential triggers which causes a flare.

What are the common eczema triggers?

It may be difficult to detect a trigger because a flare can occur sometime after exposure and not directly after. This time lag can make it difficult to detect some of the triggers which causes our eczema flare.

We have to keep in mind that eczema affects everyone differently. What triggers a flare in you is not the same for another. You may experience the symptoms of eczema in different regions in your body and at certain times of the year.

Common eczema triggers are;

  • Dry skin – If your skin gets very dry, it becomes scaly, rough and brittle easily. You may get a tight feeling. These features can lead to an eczema flare.
  • Irritants – some substances can act as irritants to our skin. These can be found in the everyday products we use and even in natural substances that come in to contact with our skin. We use most of these products on our body and in our homes in our day to day lives. These irritants can make our skin itch and burn or become red and dry further. Because in eczema we already have a sensitive skin with a defective barrier.

These irritants can be;

  1. Hand and dish soap, shampoos, body wash, bubble bath
  2. Laundry detergents, surface cleaners, disinfectants and other household cleaners
  3. Some natural liquids such as juice from fresh fruits, vegetables and meat.
  4. Metal ex: Nickel (found in watches, kitchen ware, jewelry, batteries etc.)
  5. Fragrances and perfumes
  6. Cigarette smoke
  7. Antibacterial ointments ex: Bacitracin, Neomycin
  8. Certain fabrics such as wool, polyester and other synthetic fabrics

Here are some potential chemicals which can irritate our skin and cause an eczema flare up.

  • Isothiazolinone – it is an antibacterial product found in some personal care products ex: baby wipes
  • Formaldehyde – it is found in glues, adhesives, household disinfectants and some vaccines
  • Paraphenylene-diamene – found in temporary tattoos and leather dyes
  • Cocamidopropyl betaine – found in shampoos and lotions

These substances can irritate your skin when it comes into contact with them or when you touch them.

  • Environmental factors – cold or dry weather conditions, humidity and dampness, house dust mites, molds, pollen and pet dander may act as triggers to give a flare.

Most of these are air borne allergens. Allergens are substances which cause an allergic reaction.

  • Food allergies – allergens in certain foods can trigger eczema.

Ex: Cow’s milk, pea nuts, soya, eggs, wheat, gluten, shell fish

As each one with eczema is different, whether you are allergic to such food items and to what food items, differ from one patient to another. Some eczemas are not related to food allergies at all. Be mindful of what you eat if you know that certain foods can trigger your eczema.

  • Stress – emotional stress is found to be a trigger for eczema flares. The exact cause of how stress affects eczema is not sure. Symptoms may worsen when you are feeling ‘stressed’. Knowing that you have eczema which is a chronic skin disease can also stress you which can lead to a flare up. Living with eczema can be challenging and it can affect our emotional wellbeing. The appearance of the skin rash is not only embarrassing but it can lead to severe itching and sleepless nights.

Stress and anxiety are well known triggers of eczema because when we experience a stressful situation, our body switches to a ‘fight or flight’ mode which increases the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. They can suppress our immune system and cause an inflammatory response in our skin, leading to a flare.

  • Hormonal changes – Eczema flares can occur and symptoms may worsen during certain times in women because of their hormonal changes.

Ex: prior to the periods, during pregnancy and breast feeding

  • Skin infections – when germs get in to your skin, it can trigger an eczema flare. Eczema skin may develop fissures and small cracks on the surface. These act as entry points to various bacteria (staphylococcus, streptococcus), viruses (HSV) and even fungi. Infection can make eczema worse and treatment becomes more difficult. Your skin will get more damaged which leads the way to further infection. Therefore, breaking this cycle of infection is a key to successful management of eczema.
  • Heavy workouts and exercise can lead to increased sweating leading to eczema flares. For people with eczema, heavy exercise can dry out their skin through loss of fluids. Sweat has sodium which further can dehydrate your skin while irritating and making it sting. As the skin surface temperature soars with exercise, it can trigger frenzied scratching in people with eczema. This can damage your skin and lead to a flare.

If you have symptoms that worry you, seek help from your doctor or a dermatologist. It is best to maintain a diary, so that you can discuss what the possible triggers are and the ways of avoiding these triggers with your doctor. Apart from complying with the treatment regime, it is a must to identify what triggers a flare up and try your best to avoid them.

Some tips to avoid triggers

  • Identify the triggering foods and avoid them in your diet

Maintaining an eczema friendly diet is the key to keeping your symptoms under control. There are certain foods which help to reduce eczema symptoms. They are known to be anti-inflammatory foods. Studies have demonstrated that these can fight inflammation.

  1. Fatty fish – Fatty fish contain long chain omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA and are a rich source of protein. EPA and DHA can reduce inflammation.

Ex: Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Herring

  1. Berries – Berries contain antioxidants called anthocyanin which have anti-inflammatory properties.

Ex: Blue berries, Black berries, Raspberries

  1. Avocados – rich in vitamins, minerals, monounsaturated fats, carotenoids and tocopherols which are good anti-inflammatory agents.
  2. Cruciferous vegetables – They are rich in antioxidants which fight inflammation.

Ex: Broccoli, Kale, Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts

  1. Green tea – it is a healthy beverage with anti-inflammatory properties
  2. Peppers – They are rich with antioxidants and strong anti-inflammatory properties.

Make sure to avoid foods like fried foods, junk foods, processed meats, refined carbohydrates and Trans fats because they are linked with increased levels of inflammation. They may play a role in worsening your eczema.

  • Keep your home allergen free, vacuum regularly, wash your bed linen at least once a week, replace carpets with hard wood floors so that you can mop your floor to keep it dust free and clean.
  • To avoid your skin becoming too dry during winter months, use a humidifier at home. Moisturize your skin more than usual in cold months to prevent drying.
  • Manage your stress well – practice yoga, meditation and other relaxation techniques
  • Use gloves when using detergents and house hold cleansers. Avoid touching chemical irritants unnecessarily.
  • Use hypoallergenic scent free body products
  • Choose fabrics which doesn’t trigger symptoms such as itchiness and redness. You can wear an extra layer of non-irritant garment like cotton, under your wool garments.
  • You can do low intensity work outs in cooler times of day such as early morning or evening. Keep a fan nearby to evaporate the sweat.

Managing your eczema can be challenging. Keep track of your day to day activities. Identify what worsens your symptoms. Take necessary steps to reduce exposure to these triggers. With time you may notice an improvement in your skin and flares will be much less.



Allergies and Eczema – Is there a link?

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Both allergies and Eczema are 2 conditions that are commonly seen in society. Often we see that these two conditions coexist, but is there actually a link between the two or is it only a coincidence?

What is an allergy?

An allergy occurs when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance. This substance may be pollen, animal dander, bee venom, or even a food item. Allergies don’t occur in everyone. What is allergic to you may not be allergic to your friend.

Our immune system produces substances called antibodies. They are there for our protection. However, when you have an allergy, your immune system produces antibodies that identify a particular substance as harmful, although it really isn’t most of the time. Therefore, if you come in contact with such an allergen, your immune system can cause a reaction that can occur as inflammation in your skin, airways, sinuses, or digestive system.

The severity of an allergy can vary from person to person. It may range from a minor irritation to anaphylaxis which is potentially life-threatening and considered an emergency. Most allergies are not curable, however, your symptoms can be relieved with various treatments.

What are the symptoms of allergies?

The symptoms depend on the allergen, which is the substance involved, and where the exposure occurs in your body. For example, hay fever, which is also known as allergic rhinitis can cause sneezing, itchy nose, and eyes, runny or stuffy nose with watery or red eyes.

Skin can get affected in allergies such as for certain foods. Hives or urticaria is a common occurrence. They are red, itchy welts that result from skin reaction. Depending on the severity, your lips, eyes, face, or throat can get swollen. This is known as angioedema. An insect sting allergy can give a large area of edema (swelling) at the site of the sting as well as hives and itching throughout your body.

What is Eczema?

Eczema is also known as Atopic dermatitis. It is a chronic skin condition commonly seen in children. It is a long term condition which usually has several flares and remissions. It can also be an allergic skin condition that causes your skin to redden, itch, flake, or peel. Atopic dermatitis is quite common which affects around 20% of children.

Eczema can be either wet or dry. These lesions are almost always itchy. Scratching can increase the risk of infection as germs get in through damaged skin. Continuous scratching can cause lesions to become thick, discolored, and leathery.

Eczema can run in families because it is an atopic condition which has an inheriting tendency. It can also associate with Hay fever (Allergic rhinitis), allergic conjunctivitis, or bronchial asthma. Usually, there is a family history of one or more of these conditions suffered by a family member or a close relative.

There is an entity called contact dermatitis which is quite similar to eczema. It is a skin reaction to something that it comes in contact with. These are irritants such as poison ivy, soap, bleach, certain metals, fabric dyes, hair dyes, and other irritants. Here, a red rash appears with an itching, burning, or stinging sensation in the area which was exposed or got contacted. Sometimes blistering (fluid-filled vesicles) and oozing can occur. Patch testing is done to identify contact allergens.

Impaired skin barrier in atopic dermatitis facilitates the penetration of potential allergens. Therefore children with atopic dermatitis have a possibility of contact allergies leading to contact dermatitis. They may have unacknowledged contact allergies contributing to skin symptoms. Here, patch testing is an important tool for screening children with atopic dermatitis which helps in their further management too.

Children with atopic dermatitis are also at a greater risk of sensitization to certain allergens like metals, metal products, and some skincare products.

Seborrheic dermatitis is another type of skin condition which commonly affects areas with hair growth or areas where oil (sebum) is secreted. It may be caused by a reaction to yeast which is a natural commensal (part of normal flora) on our skin. Here, the rash is dry and scaly and sometimes appears red. Seborrheic dermatitis may be similar to eczematous lesions.

What are the similarities between urticarial skin allergy and eczema?

Both eczema and allergies involve the immune system. Therefore, eczema and allergies are closely related.

  • Both conditions can cause severe itching
  • Redness of skin
  • Scratching can give rise to swelling of the area (edema)
  • It can occur in any place of your skin

What are the differences between skin allergy and eczema?

Eczema can be oozing or dry, but urticarial skin reaction or hives doesn’t ooze. Eczema can get infected but hives do not usually get infected.

Is eczema actually an allergy?

Most eczema types are not allergies. Eczema cannot be caused by an allergy. However, we have seen that eczema flare-ups occur following exposure to certain allergens in susceptible individuals. For example, certain foods can cause an allergic reaction which may give rise to an eczema flare-up.

Studies have found that eczema and food allergies are closely related. Certain foods can lead to allergic reactions and eczema flare-ups. These common food allergens are milk, eggs, wheat, soybean, nuts, and meat items. These foods can commonly affect kids and worsen their eczema symptoms. It may not be so in adults.

Ex: Babies with atopic dermatitis are found to have a higher risk of developing food allergies.

What is Atopy?

Atopy refers to a genetic tendency to develop allergic diseases like asthma, atopic dermatitis (eczema), allergic rhinitis (hay fever), and allergic conjunctivitis. Atopy is associated with heightened immune responses to common allergens such as food allergens or inhaled allergens.

Atopy runs in families. Therefore, you may have seen a mother with asthma having a baby with hay fever or atopic dermatitis or vice-versa. Research is still being carried out to study the link between these atopic conditions.

What is ‘Atopic march’?

According to allergy experts, atopic dermatitis is an early step of ‘Atopic March’. There is a common clinical progression from atopic dermatitis to food allergies and sometimes to respiratory allergies and allergic asthma in some children.

This biological process occurs because allergens reach your immune cells easily through the dysfunctional skin barrier that is affected by atopic dermatitis.

The link between eczema and allergies is still unclear and the connection is complicated. Scientists are still learning new details regarding this link.

Some areas of study include;

  1. Genes – A gene has been identified which causes a lack of a protein type called Filaggrin in their skin. Filaggrin protects the outer layer of our skin and keeps the germs out. When Filaggrin is lacking our skin barrier becomes weak, making it vulnerable to irritants, such as chemicals, soap, and detergents. Germs and allergens too can easily get in. Therefore, people with a lack of the Filaggrin gene are more sensitive to allergens like pollen, pet dander, and certain food items. A defect in the filaggrin gene by a mutation increases the risk of eczema.
  2. Body’s reaction to allergens – Research has found that eczematous skin has a defective skin barrier. There are small gaps that dries out your skin as well as let allergens and germs enter your body.

What happens when germs and allergens enter our skin?

Our skin sees these allergens as foreign substances and causes a reaction. It is called inflammation, where our body makes chemicals that can lead to swelling and redness. The prompting to make these chemicals within your body is done by the allergens. Therefore, if you suffer from eczema or if you are susceptible to it, you may have an outbreak or a flare-up, if you get exposed to an allergen.

  1. Antibodies – It is identified that the antibody IgE (Immunoglobulin E) plays a role in our body’s allergic response. If you are a person with eczema, you may have a higher level of IgE antibodies in your bloodstream. It is not yet understood why people with eczema have too much IgE in them and the exact role of it towards eczema.

Learning about these links between allergies and eczema will help you to control your eczema flare-ups in a better way.

How can you avoid allergens to prevent flare-ups of eczema?

These allergens are known as trigger factors because they initiate the reaction to cause the flare-up of your eczema.

  1. Avoid allergy triggers – Identify the triggers which worsen your eczema or leads to a flare-up in well-controlled disease. Different people may have different triggers. However, in some, it will be difficult to find an exact trigger factor.

preventing eczema flares

Once you identify them, it is easier to avoid getting exposed.

Sometimes these triggers can be unavoidable, such as pollen during spring and summer seasons. But allergens like pet dander, mold, dust mites, and allergic food items can be avoided if you are careful.

Some tips to avoid allergy triggers….

  • Use dust-proof pillow covers and mattresses
  • Avoid animals and pets especially furry dogs and cats
  • Remove carpets
  • Mop floors
  • Stay indoors when pollen counts are high
  1. Avoid skin irritants –Your skin can get irritated by soaps, detergents, wool, perfume, chemicals, and even cigarette smoke. Avoid them as much as possible once you correctly identify that these are common irritants that can lead to your eczema flare-up.
  2. Maintain an eczema journal –Remember when, where, and what you were doing when your eczema flared up. Write them down in a journal. If you go through it carefully, you may figure out what your triggers are. You can share this journal with your doctor, so that he or she can see the pattern and advice you accordingly, during your appointments.

Link Between food allergies and eczema

It is a well-known fact that food allergy and eczema are highly associated. However, all eczema patients do not have food allergies. Research has found that 20-40% of children with moderate to severe eczema have an IgE mediated food allergy.

Can food allergies exacerbate eczema?

There are some studies which suggest that people with positive allergy testing to egg can get better if they eliminate egg from their diet. Testing for food allergies can be beneficial in children with severe eczema who do not improve with optimized skincare. Testing for food allergies can be done through skin testing or blood tests to identify the specific IgE antibody for the allergen.

Although a positive result means that the allergic antibody is present, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will have an allergic reaction.

Research has found that food allergies and eczema co-exist, but we still do not know for sure whether food allergies worsen eczema. Further research needs to be done to confirm this fact.

According to another study, food allergy was found among 50.7% of patients with atopic dermatitis.

Ex: eggs, milk, wheat, soy

Scientists have found that children with both atopic dermatitis and food allergy have structural and molecular differences in the top layers of healthy-looking skin near the eczema lesions, although children with atopic dermatitis alone do not have these differences. However, the outer appearance of the eczema rash doesn’t show any difference between the 2 groups. According to published research defining these differences can help to identify children who are at a higher risk for developing food allergies.

Therefore, it is helpful to identify food allergies in order to improve symptoms in patients with atopic dermatitis.

The link between inhaled allergens and eczema

It is identified that airborne triggers (allergies in the air) act as inhalant allergens and are highly associated with eczema.

Ex: Pollen, dust mite, animal dander

Therefore, there is a strong association between eczema and respiratory allergies such as asthma and allergic rhinitis.

According to studies, atopic dermatitis is characterized by skin barrier defects (such as mutations in the Filaggrin gene and other alterations of immune cells). These factors promote the development of food allergies and asthma too.

Scientists have tried to introduce potential food allergens to at-risk infants to prevent food allergies. But does this prevent the babies from eczema? Research data is inadequate to come to a conclusion.



10 Foods that may Worsen your Eczema

We all know that diet is important for maintaining a healthy and well-nourished body, but for people suffering from eczema, the food you eat may be the difference between clear skin and a sudden and irritating flare-up.  

If you are experiencing eczema without knowing the cause, it may very well be that you’re eating the wrong food. 

In this blog post, I’ll explore 10 foods that may be worsening your eczema and offer some better alternatives so that you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner without the itchy aftermath. 

Please bear in mind that I am in no way a medical professional and while my suggestions may provide relief, you should always speak to a medical professional or nutritionist before making any dietary changes to ensure all essential nutrients are retained – especially when children are involved.  – Jennifer Roberge

Eczema in a Nutshell

Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that causes a person to develop patches of dry, red, itchy skin on their body, most commonly appearing on the face, hands, feet, and back of the knees.  It occurs in both babies and adults and can be triggered by a number of factors.  

Typically, these irritants include house-hold products like soaps and detergents, extreme hot or cold weather conditions, stress, rough fabrics such as wool, and a variety of beauty products. Because eczema develops due to inflammation, one of the biggest culprits of the condition is actually food.

You can manage and track the food triggers using the eczema app and eliminate it from your diet to keep the eczema flares at bay

Elimination Diet

Although there are plenty of natural creams and medications that offer soothing and calming relief for itchy skin, one of the best ways to relieve eczema is eliminating the triggers that are causing it in the first place.  In terms of diet, this means avoiding the consumption of foods that are known to make eczema worse for a certain period of time (usually about a month) and then slowly work these foods back into your diet to determine which caused a reaction.

A food-sensitive eczema reaction will likely occur within 6-24 hours of consuming the food but it’s possible that the reaction may be delayed. [1]  If you are having trouble ascertaining which foods exactly are triggering the condition, this helpful eczema elimination diet is a good place to start.  Please keep in mind that an eczema elimination diet is only a short-term diet, with the goal being to reduce the intake of the triggering food, if possible. 

Foods to Avoid

While there are common food culprits that may worsen your eczema, it’s important to remember that everyone is different and not everyone will experience the same issues with the foods listed below. Understanding your body and knowing which foods work and don’t work for you personally is crucial, keeping in mind that there is a difference between a food allergy and a food-insensitivity. 

  1. Gluten – Wheat is quite a common allergy in children but thankfully, it’s also one that most children will outgrow by age 10. Usually, the reaction will occur minutes after consuming the wheat, but it’s possible, in some cases, that symptoms won’t appear for a couple of hours after consumption.

  2. Nuts – Nut allergy is one of the most common food allergies in children and adults. Nuts come in many varieties including pistachios, almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, to name a few. If you are allergic to one type of nut, it’s highly likely that you’ll react similarly to other nuts as well – no matter where they grow.
  3. Soy Products – Unfortunately, soy is one of the most difficult products to avoid if you suffer from allergies as it’s found in many processed foods such as mayonnaise, vegetable broths, frozen meals, and meat substitutes. A soy allergy ranges from mild to severe and usually begins in early life.
  4. Eggs –  As eggs are found in most breads, pastas, cakes, cookies, and cereals, they are a hard product to avoid.  Unfortunately, they are also one of the most common allergens, with 2% of children reported as being allergic to eggs [3]. Some egg-free products include macaroni, marshmallows and other types of noodles.

  5. Dairy – Cow’s milk is the leading cause of allergic reactions in children.  Unfortunately, changing from cow’s milk to almond milk is not much help due to the fact that, as mentioned earlier, nuts are another common trigger of eczema.

  6. Citrus Fruits – Eating citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit, can irritate eczema.  In fact, even coming into contact with the peel of citrus fruit can initiate extreme itching, dry skin, redness or burning.
  7. Peanuts – Despite containing the word ‘nut’ in its name, peanuts are actually part of the legume family as they grow underground. That being said, the allergic reaction to peanuts is very similar to that of the tree-nut allergy.

  8. Shellfish – An allergy to shellfish can develop any time in a person’s life and can be caused by food that you’ve previously eaten with no issues whatsoever. Some shellfish to avoid include shrimp, crab, lobster, prawns, mussels, oysters and squid. Often, shellfish allergic reactions can be unpredictable as they can occur long after the person has consumed the allergen [3].

  9. Spices – Vanilla, cloves, and cinnamon are common types of spices that cause allergic reactions
  10. Tomatoes An allergic reaction to tomatoes will typically occur immediately following exposure to the allergen.  As tomatoes are beloved in many dishes (such as pizza and pasta!) they might be frustrating to avoid but thankfully, alternatives such as alfredo sauce and bechamel sauce are tasty replacements

What To Eat Instead 

Fortunately, there are anti-inflammatory foods that reduce eczema symptoms. This includes foods that are high in probiotics, such as miso soup, sourdough bread, tempeh, and naturally fermented pickles, as well as foods that are high in quercetin, such as apples, blueberries, kale, broccoli and spinach. 

Quercetin is effective in reducing inflammation because it is a powerful antioxidant and antihistamine. 

Finally, salmon and herring contain high-levels are omega-3 fatty acids, making them anti-inflammatory and ideal for those suffering from eczema. 

e hope this list is helpful in giving you a better understanding of how the food you consume can affect your eczema.  Remember to always seek the advice of a medical professional or a nutritionist before making any dietary changes.  





About the Author

Jennifer Roberge is the founder of the award-winning Its An Itchy Little World blog and The Eczema Company. Propelled to find a solution for her son’s struggles with eczema, allergies, and asthma, Jennifer has established herself as the go-to resource on integrative and holistic methods, and the best natural products for healing both inside and out.

Environmental factors causing Eczema Flares


Environment and Eczema

Though the exact causes of Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) are unclear it is widely accepted that Eczema is aggravated by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Eczema flareups are due to defensive actions of the immune response cells of the body reacting to foreign factors. These foreign factors are called triggers. These triggers can be apparently harmless aspects of your daily life. Some of these triggers can be controlled by patients but many of them are beyond their easy control. Triggers such as specific food ingredients, clothes, perfumes, etc can be controlled or avoided easily. However, some triggers such as pollen count, humidity, temperature, etc. are beyond a patient’s control or cannot be avoided easily. Some of the weather and other environmental triggers have a dramatic impact on the severity of an eczema flare-up.

Our skin is the outermost organ of our body which senses conditions and adapts accordingly for e.g. if the climate is hot it perspires to make it cool and has a layer of fat under it to keep the body warm in cold weather. But these adaptation functions of the skin despair to an extent in people with Atopic Dermatitis The skin affected with eczema loses more water than it should and gives an open ground for microbes, allergens, and other irritants. Climate or weather affects each person differently even if two individuals are suffering from Atopic Dermatitis both of them will react differently to different triggers. The exact relationship between weather and Eczema has not been defined, but experts consider that the damage to the skin’s barrier may hamper the ability to adapt to the changing weather. Let’s check out some important environmental factors and how do they affect eczema.

Try Eczemaless an AI app to keep a check on the most common weather triggers such as temperature, pollen, humidity, etc that cause eczema flares.

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– Humidity

Humidity is one of the vital factors in the environment, to which skin reacts almost immediately and it plays a major role in how your body handles eczema.

Dry and Low humidity: The dry air pulls moisture from the skin making it dry worsening the eczema plaques further.

Hot and High humidity: The hot and sticky climate makes your skin sweat a lot making eczema-prone skin itchier and more irritated resulting in a flare-up

Humidity level for Eczema

A perfect level of humidity can be different for each person but climate with 50% humidity in the air is ideal. Both Low and High humidity is bad for eczema wherein Low humidity triggers your eczema or intensifies a flare-up, whereas hot weather worsens an existing outbreak intensifying the itch.


  • If possible and feasible with your work-life balance, move to a place better suited for your eczema
  • Take necessary precaution while moving out of home and try avoiding a condition in which you will sweat more such as congested rooms or trains.
  • use humidifiers/dehumidifiers and indoor AC/heating, to control the climate at least inside homes and set it at an ideal condition for eczema

– Winter

Experts found that people with Eczema experience greater itchiness in cold weather than summer season and that maybe the reason your flare-ups occur predominantly in winter. Changes between cold and hot environments also worsen Eczema.

The combined effect of low temperatures, less humidity and dry air with a reduced or negligible amount of sunshine in winter aggravates eczema flare. The dry air drains and evaporates moisture from the skin making it dry and triggering a flare. Low temperatures demand insulation which comes in the form of increased clothing. Some of the warm clothing is made from wool and other fibers which reduce ventilation of skin and also cause irritation increasing the itch and need for scratching worsening eczema.

Eczema Winter Tips


  • Moisturize skin at least twice a day. Lock the moisture in the skin to help hydration and repair the skin barrier
  • Use lukewarm water for bathing and keep baths short.
  • Avoid harsh soaps, which can further dry and irritate the skin
  • Use humidifiers to increase the amount of moisture in the room.
  • Wear suitable clothes while going outside. Hats, scarves, and gloves may be required but avoid those made from wool, which can increase itching and scratching.

– Heat

When an eczema patient is exposed to heat, and the temperature reaches a certain level, it gives an itching sensation exacerbating eczema. The normal mechanism of the body’s sweating in hot condition to cool down actually worsens the condition in eczema. Moreover, when the sweat evaporates leaves the sodium in the skin making it drier and itchier.

Apart from hot weather conditions other causes that overheat the body include exercising, wearing non-breathable fabrics and overdressing


  • Avoid Overheating
  • Avoid overdressing, wear breathing fabric such as cotton.
  • put on moisturizers and sunblock when outside, and try not to get into situations where you sweat

Take a shower after exercise or whenever you sweat a lot due to traveling, playing, etc.

– Sunlight

Sun acts as both the healer and as a culprit for Eczema flares.

Sunlight can act as a treatment for eczema. People with severe cases can benefit from ultraviolet ray treatments. Sun exposure leads to increased vitamin D production, which can be great for the health of the skin.

For Many people Sun can be an irritant and may cause you sunburn and be a reason for increasing your itch, raising your body temperature, causing you sweat ultimately causing your eczema flare.


  • use an eczema-safe sunscreen when in sun for extended periods.
  • shield yourself with breathable clothes and a hat.

– Pollutants

Pollution or pollutants don’t directly cause Eczema but definitely can be a trigger that may cause an eczema flare worsening the condition. The correlation between air pollution and the prevalence and severity of atopic dermatitis is well known. The mechanism behind this is, itch causes scratching, disrupting the skin barrier function, and opening the entry for antigens (pollutants) to penetrate. This results in the patients being sensitized to antigens and subject to allergic diseases, in this case, Atopic Dermatitis.

This apart you may also be subjected to indoor allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, Pollen, mold, etc.

If allergies are a trigger for your eczema, take steps to control them.


  • Keep your home clean. Dust often and be sure to vacuum carpets frequently.
  • Get rid of dust mites by washing bedding, curtains, blankets, etc. at least fortnightly with very hot water.
  • Keep pets out of your bedroom
  • Close your windows during peak allergy season to avoid exposure to mold and pollen

To live a healthy life with eczema it is important to keep your symptoms and triggers under check. While tracking Eczema triggers keep in mind that eczema flare can appear even after some time to exposure, the lag time appears as a challenge to narrow down the trigger.

Approach a Physician

In case your eczema suddenly gets out of control it could be possible that you have developed an allergy or an Infection. In such case better to approach for medical health.

It is also advisable to approach a dermatologist if your symptoms are proving very hard to manage on your own.

Take away

As already mentioned, under tips section of each category of environmental factors, the best way to deal with your local weather is to move to a weather location less averse to Eczema and wear appropriate clothes, put on moisturizers and sunblock when leaving the house, and avoid situations which will make you sweat. Make sure that your bedroom is at the perfect level of humidity and heat using humidifier/dehumidifier, AC / heater, etc.  This ensures that you will be more comfortable at least when you sleep and help keep eczema flare-ups calm through the night.

Try out EczemaLess App to keep a track of Environmental Triggers as the app automatically records the most common weather triggers such as pollen, humidity, etc. Users can log suspected triggers through the intuitive user interface. The app comes pre-populated with the most common triggers, users can add custom triggers.