Eczema is a long term, possibly life long, skin condition that is dry and itchy. The most common form of eczema is known as atopic dermatitis. It often results from being in contact with an allergen, so naturally, it benefits you to be aware of indoor allergens that can trigger your condition and take the measures necessary to reduce your exposure to them.
The most common allergens are dust mites and pets. There are allergy skin prick and blood tests that can help you to determine if you have these allergies. The bedroom is the most crucial room for irritant management. For optimal defense against indoor allergens, let’s first identify them and what you can do to guard against them.
7 Household Allergen Triggers
- Dust: Wear a medical mask when dusting and dust frequently. Don’t use feather dusters that sweep the dust into the air, a cloth or pad works better for wiping the surface.
- Dust Mites: Invest in dust mite protective covering for bedding. Wash your bedding once a week.
- Pet Dander: Despite what you may have heard about pets with shorter hair not causing dander, that information is false. Wash your pets at least once a week and vacuum your home frequently using only vacuums that are equipped with HEPA filters.
- Mold: Be aware of different molds that can be found in the bathroom or window sills most commonly. A solution of 1 cup bleach to a gallon of water should help you to remove mold. Wear latex free gloves and a medical mask over your face to avoid breathing in this harmful allergen while properly cleaning it from your home.
- Cockroaches: The saliva and feces of cockroaches have been identified as being an in home allergen that can trigger asthma reactions. Naturally, asthmatic people are more prone to develop eczema, so it is best to mind this allergen before it becomes an infestation. Cockroaches are typically found in larger cities. Wash dishes right away, keep food locked up tightly, take garbage out immediately and if you suspect a problem you are unable to get a handle on, contact an exterminator right away.
- Cigarette Smoke: Tobacco smoke has been identified as worsening eczema irritation and asthma. Keep your home and vehicle free of cigarette smoke. I don’t have to tell you that smoking is bad for your health. You know it. As a physician, it is my responsibility, however, to reiterate for you what you already know about it, so here it goes. Don’t smoke. It is bad for your heart, blood pressure, asthma, lungs, skin and can cause cancer.
- Pollen: If brought in by you or your pets from inside it can become an indoor allergen. Wipe your pets down when they come back indoors. Remove your shoes at the door, as not to track pollen through your home.
Additional Indoor Allergen Considerations
- Harsh Soaps/Detergents: Avoid using harsh soaps and laundry detergents. Instead, use soaps that are free of dyes and perfumes. Read labels and avoid products with sulfates. Antibacterial soaps can trigger hand eczema to flare up, so avoid them. Fabric softeners are another contact allergen that can trigger flares. It is best to not use them. Wash hands in warm water, as hot water irritates dermatitis.
- Household Chemicals: Household cleaners, turpentine, gasoline, rubbing alcohol and other household solvents can worsen hand eczema. Wear latex free gloves when handling these products. If your skin comes into direct contact with them, wash it immediately.
- Climate/Air Quality Control: Because people with eczema are lacking enough moisture in their skin, humidifiers can be used in the home to help keep the air from becoming too dry. It may be in your best interest to invest in a HEPA (high efficiency particulate arresting) air purifier. In addition, utilize HEPA filters on heating or air conditioning unit, to help keep allergens out of the home.
- Overheating: Keep the temperature of your home between 68-75 degrees F. Sweat can worsen your condition. Don’t be dismissive to this reality. Sweating was responsible for Derick Rose’s (first round draft pick Chicago Bulls),announcement of retirement from the NBA at age 26. (I should note despite rumors he continued playing). It is important to manage your condition by shower in lukewarm water if you are experiencing excessive sweating or have just exercised, to avoid this irritation.
Clearing your home of harmful allergen such as dust, pet dander, dust mites and cockroaches is imperative for managing your dermatitis. When handling other potential irritants such as chemicals, soaps and detergents, be sure to wear protective gloves and exercise caution.