Can hayfever make eczema worse?
Eczema, asthma and hayfever are known collectively as the ‘atopic triad.’ Each of them has an underlying genetic root that causes hypersensitivity to certain triggers. In the case of eczema, issues such as stress, chemicals or sometimes even food plays a role whereas in hayfever, pollen is the main trigger.
Although these conditions can occur separately, unfortunately, if you suffer from atopic condition you are up to 70% more likely to start displaying symptoms of another.1 This means that many people who suffer from eczema may also start to experience hayfever symptoms and vice-versa.
Why does pollen upset eczema?
Well, there are a variety of reasons. The first pertains to the idea that those with eczema are born with a defect in their skin barrier, which means that pathogens and allergens like pollen find it easier to permeate the epidermis and make their way into the bloodstream.2 The immune system, which is already hypersensitive in eczema sufferers thanks to high levels of IGE (Immunoglobulin) antibodies, immediately goes on red alert and triggers an inflammatory reaction that can cause a flare-up
Another explanation is that eczema, hayfever and asthma all share many of the same genetic risk factors. Last year a study was published in Nature Genetics that identified more than 100 genetic risk factors for asthma, eczema and hayfever.3 These risk factors were thought to influence whether nearby genes were switched on or off which then affected how certain immune cells would work.
What can you do to protect eczema-prone skin?
Summer can be a really tricky time for eczema sufferers and it often seems like triggers lurk around every corner. The hot weather, the dry air from air cons and now the possibility of pollen irritating your vulnerable skin – it can seem as though right from the start, the odds of surviving the summer without a significant flare-up are not in your favour.
However, as I explore in my blog, ’How can you protect your skin during the hayfever season’ there are still things you can do to prepare your skin and prevent a flare-up. When it comes to eczema and hayfever in particular, here are my 4 simple steps to keep pollen allergies from agigitating your skin.
Step 1 - Think about your home environment
Pollen can easily creep into your home thanks to open windows and pets, even sticking to your clothes, hair and shoes where it can be transferred to your bedding and carpets and spread at its own leisure. Of course, if the temperature is up outdoors, the chances are you don’t want to sit inside a stuffy house and, if you suffer from eczema, the idea of investing in an air conditioning system probably doesn’t fill you with much enthusiasm.
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t open your windows, but pollen levels are generally at their zenith during late morning and early afternoon so you may want to leave your windows open when the count is lower, such as the early morning or evening. You’ll also want to avoid drying your clothes outside on the line as this given pollen an excellent opportunity to stick to them and later be transferred to your skin.
It’s also important that you avoid bringing pollen into the place where you sleep so try to change clothes in your bathroom and wash your bed sheets and pillowcases regularly. The same goes for your pets too – your beloved pooch is brimming with possible allergens so make sure they’re washed properly and keep them off your bed!
Step 2 – Plan in advance
You may have eczema, but the chances are you want a chance to enjoy the sunshine just like everyone else. Nobody wants to spend all summer cooped up indoors which is why it really pays to plan things in advance. Check your local pollen count for the week ahead so you have an idea of when the pollen count will be low and what hotspots you should be trying to avoid.
It’s also important to remember that grass pollen is responsible for approximately 90% of hayfever sufferer’s symptoms so think carefully about where you’re going. Instead of having a picnic at the park, why not take it to the beach? Pollen counts are generally lower closer to the sea and you may even find the temperature more bearable thanks to a cool sea breeze.
Just make sure you invest in a good quality, natural sunscreen to help protect your sensitive skin against UV radiation - as I explore in my blog, ‘How safe is your suncream?’ many high-street suncream brands contain harmful chemicals that can upset your skin and trigger a flare-up. That’s why it pays to opt for a brand that incorporates more natural ingredients into their products, such as Green People.
As the hayfever season approaches you may even want to start taking preventative measures when it comes to your hayfever medicines. Many of our customers start to take our Pollinosan Hayfever Tablets as soon as the sneezing season begins and keep them close at hand throughout the summer months. Investing in some nourishing eye drops may also be a good move – our Extra Moisturising Eye Drops contain double the amount of hyaluronic acid compared to our normal eye drops so they may be a good choice if you feel you need a bit of extra hydration!
Step 3 - Don’t go overboard with food and drink
It’s summer and you probably want relax and enjoy yourself. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, in moderation, but if you suffer from eczema, pollen isn’t the only allergy you need to be aware of. Often food allergies or intolerances can also trigger a flare-up, not to mention that certain foods and drinks can increase your production of histamine, an inflammatory chemical that plays a big role when it comes to hayfever symptoms.
Our hayfever advisor, Rachel Berlandi, offers a bit more advice when it comes to hayfever and your diet in her blog, ‘7 nutritional tips to help you survive the hayfever season.’ When it comes to eczema, you can find more information on our eczema and diet page. Rather than focus too much on what you can’t have, below I’ve listed just a few of the foods you may want to stock up on to help ease your eczema symptoms!
It also helps to remember that sometimes travelling in general, can easily distress your digestive system, which can have a knock-on effect on your skin. If you find yourself suffering from symptoms such as indigestion or bloating while you’re on your holidays, you could try our Digestisan remedy which contains bitter herbs that help to support your digestive secretions, making it easier for you to breakdown foods in your digestive tract.
Step 4 – Keep your skin hydrated
If you suffer from eczema, your skin can lack moisture and easily become dry, making it more susceptible to irritation and allergens such as pollen. That’s why it’s important to try and nourish your skin during the summer months when it can easily become vulnerable to UV radiation and other factors that can cause dryness.
Moisturiser should be your new best friend, but more importantly, you should be opting for a moisturiser that contains plenty of nourishing ingredients, such as coconut oil, avocado oil or Shea butter. If you want to learn more about some of my personal favourite natural moisturisers for dry skin, check out my blog here for my top recommendations.
Neem is another natural ingredient that’s been shown to help dry skin as it contains natural anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, easing areas of inflammation and reducing redness while calming irritation and itchiness. Our Neem Cream contains extracts of neem, sweet almond oil and rosemary and has been known to have a very soothing effect on eczema-prone skin.
If you suffer from eczema-prone skin stay away from moisturisers that contain abrasive chemicals and parabens – if the ingredients list is too long or contains plenty of long, baffling words, stay away! Try to consider your cosmetics too – if you can, go organic with your makeup and try organic, natural ranges that have been formulated specifically with eczema-prone skin in mind, such as PHB Beauty.