Eczema: what is it and learn what triggers it

By Melanie Rands, ecostore

A recent study found 30% of Australian kids will get eczema in their first year of life. Rates of the disease are rising, with as many as one in four suffering from it before they turn two. What is it and learn what triggers it.

Six year old Holly Collins, together with her mum Julie, is an official ambassador for Eczema Awareness Week, run by the Eczema Association. Julie told the association it was hard to even go out because Holly had itchy, bleeding and weeping skin that had to be wrapped in wet bandages and she was waking up at night because of her eczema.

Australia has one of the highest incidences of eczema globally. It’s a painful condition that’s not well understood. Genetics and a family history of eczema are believed to be major factors, along with lifestyle, hygiene and the environment.

What is eczema?

In effect, the skin leaks and loses moisture, letting little cracks develop in the skin. These cracks in the body’s natural barrier allow allergens like pollen, dust mites and nasty chemicals in, causing much of the inflammation and itchiness that we are familiar with.

The hygiene hypothesis

This is one explanation you might have heard of. It suggests that if kids aren’t exposed to some microbes early on it will negatively affect their immune system later in life.

This hypothesis suggests allergic reactions might be our immune system overreacting to certain substances, possibly because of urban living and modern cleaning regimes. But the hygiene hypothesis might only be part of what’s going on, with the other factors we mentioned also playing a part.

There’s no cure for eczema, but here are some tips for managing symptoms:

  • Know what triggers it - it could be anything from grass to particular foods, dust mites and fragranced products. Many dermatologists recommend not using fragranced products. If you want to check out some that are fragrance free, there are some on the Eco Store website
  • Avoid overheating and sweating, which can cause flare-ups of eczema
  • Try not to scratch - that will provoke more scratching and further damage the skin. Keeping fingernails short and wearing gloves can help here
  • Use a moisturiser - it’s often recommended that sufferers regularly moisturise patches of dry skin, especially after showering or bathing when the skin is moist. Some dermatologists also recommend moisturisers that are fragrance free and don’t contain additives and chemicals
  • Wear comfortable and loose fitting clothing – preferably cotton-based – and use laundry products designed for people with sensitive skin

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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