Doctors do not know the actual reason why a person develops eczema. The most common type, atopic dermatitis, resembles an allergy. However, the skin irritation, which is more common in children rather than adults, is not an allergic reaction.
The current theory is that a combination of several factors cause eczema. That includes:
• Abnormal function of the immune system
• Activities that make the skin sensitive
• Skin that allows moisture out and germs in
Eczema is not contagious. You or your children can’t catch this skin disease by coming in contact with someone who has it.
Eczema runs in families. That suggests a genetic role in eczema’s development. A significant risk factor is having relatives who have or had:
• Seasonal allergies
Doctors also know that a large percentage of children with severe eczema will later develop asthma or other allergies.
Children are more at risk of developing eczema if they:
• Are in higher social classes
• Live in colder climates
• Stay in urban areas with higher levels of pollution
Eczema is not an allergic reaction. Even so, a large number of people who have the disease have food allergies as well. That doesn’t mean though that certain foods such as dairy, eggs, and nuts, which are common food allergy triggers, cause it or make it worse. Before removing particular foods from your diet, talk with your healthcare provider.
Triggers in Eczema
A trigger does not cause eczema. However, it can lead to a flare or make it worse. Common triggers are those that irritate the skin.
For example, in many people with eczema, wool or human-made fibers trigger a flare when it comes in contact with the skin. Other examples of things that can irritate the skin include:
• Cigarette smoke
• Soaps and other cleansers
Certain conditions that affect the immune system can also trigger flares. Things that can trigger or worsen a flare include:
• Bacterial infection
• Cold or flu
Actions and environments that cause dry skin can trigger flares. Some examples include:
• Being too hot or too cold
• Living in a place that is dry year-round
• Low humidity in the winter
• Not using a skin lubricant after a bath
• Prolonged exposure to water
• Baths that last too long