What’s Causing My Eczema Flares, and How Can I Prevent It?

Aug 01, 2023
 What’s Causing My Eczema Flares, and How Can I Prevent It?
Effective eczema management isn’t just reactive, it’s also highly proactive. Why? Because you can trace most eczema symptom flares to specific triggers you can avoid — once you know what they are. Learn more here.

Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that damages your skin’s barrier function — the glue that holds your epidermal cells together, helps your skin retain moisture, and protects your body from external elements. Your skin becomes more sensitive and prone to dryness, swelling, itching, and infection when the skin barrier function weakens.  

Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema affects more than 31 million people in the United States. It’s common in children, with most cases emerging by age five. While many childhood eczema cases improve significantly by adolescence, others persist for a lifetime. It’s less common for eczema to first appear in adulthood.

When an eczema flare-up makes your skin dry, sensitive, red, itchy, and bumpy, you mainly want powerful, lasting relief. At Florida Dermatology Associates, our board-certified experts know that effective eczema management isn’t just reactive, it’s also highly proactive

Why? Because most eczema symptom flares trace to specific triggers. Identifying your personal triggers is the first step in avoiding them — and preventing future eczema flare-ups. Here’s what you should know.    

Understanding eczema flares 

You can learn what you need to know about eczema by understanding the terms used to describe the condition:

  • Atopic means hypersensitivity to allergens
  • Dermatitis means inflammation of the skin
  • Eczema means to boil over or break out 

An eczema flare can cause a persistently itchy, dry rash on any skin area, from your hands, feet, elbows, and knees to your chest, back, neck, ears, and face. Other symptoms include:

  • Inflamed red, gray, or violet-brown patches on your skin
  • Extremely itchy skin that intensifies at night, disrupting sleep
  • Flaky, dry skin that breaks open with persistent scratching
  • Areas of blistering and bleeding prone to infection
  • Goosebumps that crust over and leak fluid

Chronic eczema flares can leave you with dry, scaly patches where rashes once appeared. Your skin may also become lighter or darker after recurrent rashes. Sometimes, an affected skin area develops tiny nodes that look like permanent goosebumps; in other cases, the skin grows thicker in response to continuous scratching.  

Determining your eczema triggers 

Eczema symptom flares may appear for several weeks or longer before they subside. In many cases, however, these irritating, skin-damaging flare-ups come back like a spiral, usually connected to a specific allergy, irritant, or trigger.  

It’s helpful to record any patterns you notice in your flare-ups to figure out your personal eczema triggers. You may have recurrent trigger possibilities — or a combination of factors that crop up often. Eczema triggers fall into three general categories:

Allergic contact 

Eczema flare-ups can happen when your skin comes in contact with an allergen or a specific substance that prompts an inflammatory immune system overreaction. It can be hard to identify contact allergens, which could be, for example, one problematic ingredient in a skin or hair care product. Dyes, fragrances, and preservatives are often the culprit. 

If you suffer from environmental or food allergies, you may have eczema flares when you experience an allergic reaction to substances, including milk, eggs, wheat, nuts, dust, pollen, or animal dander.

Irritant contact 

More commonly, eczema flares result from skin-irritating contact that triggers an inflammatory reaction in your epidermis. Sweat, dry air, intense sunlight, blasting heat or air conditioning, harsh detergents and soaps, chlorine, itchy fabrics like wool, and even friction from aggressive skin cleansing can trigger an irritant-induced eczema flare.    

Repeated exposure to an irritant contact trigger can weaken your skin barrier to the point that you become more susceptible to developing an allergy to that particular irritant. 

Emotional stress

Many people with eczema find that high stress or anxiety levels trigger symptom flares or aggravate existing flare-ups, making them more intense, longer lasting, or both.   

Preventing future eczema flares

Preventing eczema flares requires a combined approach — a tactic that’s as much about what you do as what you avoid. While you can avoid known triggers like specific ingredients in a skin care product or itchy fabrics, managing unavoidable triggers such as dry air requires a more active approach, which typically means:

  • Finding gentle skin care products that work for you
  • Showering and bathing in warm (never hot) water
  • Always maintaining a well-moisturized skin barrier 
  • Wearing loose clothing made of breathable fibers
  • Keeping any environmental allergies under control 
  • Finding ways to reduce and manage your stressors

We can help if you have questions about effective eczema management. Call your nearest Florida Dermatology Associates office in Palm Bay, Cocoa Beach, Cocoa, Melbourne, or Titusville, Florida, today, or use our easy online booking feature to schedule a visit any time.