I often find that many people’s skin conditions get better in the summer months, but Spring is that funny time when we are all of a sudden bombarded with pollen allergies and for those that are affected skin can worsen.
Your eczema may be affected if you are Atopic. Atopy refers to a family tendency to develop certain allergic conditions including eczema, asthma and hay fever. In Atopy your body produces a certain type of antibody, called immunoglobulin E (Ig E), in response to harmless allergens, such as pollen and dust mites
The good news is that there are some things you can do to help.
Below are some of my top tips for Spring:
Keep a Symptom Diary
I find it useful to keep a symptom diary (also advisable if you suspect certain food triggers). Make a note of the days, time, weather conditions, and other environmental factors that are present when your or your child’s allergies and eczema flare up. This will help you pinpoint vulnerable times and triggers. For example some people find windy days are worse as the wind often carries pollen and spores shaken from trees and flowers (as well as dust and mold etc) adding to the quantity in the air. You may decide this these are then good times to have indoor play day instead of that visit to the park.
Some medical professionals recommend taking anti-histamines or other allergy-blockers. Book an appointment with your GP or speak to your local pharmacist to see if they can advise something that can help.
Try to Limit Scratching
Easier said than done, especially at night when this can sometimes get worse. Scratching damages the skin further resulting in exacerbation and further skin trauma. The hands are one of the worst vectors of bacteria so touching and scratching can introduce bacteria into vulnerable skin! Using a natural cotton babygrow and hand mittens or a cotton ‘onesie’ for older children, as well as keeping nails clean and short may be useful.
If Dust is a Trigger
Yep, your right, what a better time for a spring clean than spring! (Ed: Look out for our spring cleaning guides coming soon.) It is not the mite itself but proteins in their droppings which is associated with irritating asthma, eczema and allergic rhinitis.
- Your bed is one of the worst places for dust mite exposure: make sure you wash bedding regularly, (ideally at 60 degrees centigrade or above to kill mites). An electric blanket decreases humidity in the bed which helps to keep mite numbers down in a mattress. You can also now buy allergen-proof covers.
- Hoover the mattress and all soft furnishing and floors often. Use a high-filtration vacuum cleaner with filters capable of retaining a high proportion of the smallest particles (HEPA filter, S-class filter or similar).
- Damp-wipe/ dust all surfaces each week.
- Wash washable toys at 60 degrees or if only lower temperatures are possible place the toy in a plastic bag in the freezer first for 12 hours.
- Reduce humidity by increasing ventilation, opening windows regularly. Extractor fans can help too. Avoid drying your washing on the radiator!
- Pets! Some of the above also applies to removing pet hair. Sadly if you have a proven allergy to your pets then the best advice is to not have one in your home, sorry!
A Word About Diet
- Avoid any food triggers: the more reactions you can prevent, the better…. In about 10% of cases, food is the main trigger of eczema in children, yet food may be one of the causes or exacerbating factors in about 30% of children with eczema. Common food triggers to look out for include: Dairy - cow’s milk, cheese, eggs, soya, wheat, fish, nuts. Solanceae or deadly nightshade family - potatoes, aubergines, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers. I have often found orange juice can also make skin conditions worse! N.B. it is important for children to have a healthy balanced diet, if a food is suspected contact your Doctor or seek professional advice before beginning an elimination diet.
- Eat the right fats: Eating the right fats may help inflammation. Omega 3 is anti-inflammatory and therefore good for irritable, sore skin conditions. Eat plenty of clean cold-water oily fish or take an Omega 3 fish oil supplement (with a good level of EPA). There are chewable and liquid versions now specifically available for children. Omega 6 is generally pro-inflammatory. Omega 6 can found in vegetable oils such as sunflower oil and margarines. These are generally high in processed foods so try to avoid them. Replace sunflower oil with olive oil when cooking.
- Eat a healthy diet: Make sure you eat your 5 a day or preferably more! Carotenoids are good for the skin and generally found in orange, yellow and red fruits and vegetables. Blueberries and Avocado are also some of my favourites for healthy skin
Washing and Products – the Do’s and Don’ts
Am I over- washing? I find the answer to this is usually yes! Choose showers instead of baths as long exposure to water and over washing can dry the skin: Some experts suggest it is better to bath children every other day or even only once or twice a week instead of every day if the skin is very dry. You can still ‘top and tail’ the rest of the time, (ie. clean bottoms, faces and hands as needed). Use plain warm water and a small amount of soap-free cleansing bar if needed. (Don’t be tempted to have baths too hot!).
- What to avoid: Avoid bubble baths, perfumes and harsh surfactants. Typical culprits include sodium laureth sulfate (SLS), or sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES). These are found in many body washes and shampoos as a cheap foaming agent and can strip the skin of natural oils. Hopes Relief Soap-Free cleansing bar is gentle enough to use on the face and bodies of babies, infants, children and is balanced to pH 5.5 the same as skin to help maintain moisture and the skins natural oils.
- Bin your toxic baby wipes: Look at the packaging of your wipes and you will find that many contain harmful ingredients ie; alcohol and perfume! If you have to use them when out and about pick those that are non-chlorine bleached, unscented and alcohol-free offering a more natural alternative or simply use a cotton or muslin wash cloth and soap-free cleansing bar.
Choose the Best Natural Products and Look After the Skin
Help is at hand! Hope's Relief has been formulated over 35 years of research and originally created by a Naturopath for her own daughter. Hopes Relief is now an award winning brand, Australia’s No1 natural eczema cream and renowned by mothers and trusted by families’ worldwide. Packed with Natural Active ingredients including: Hospital Grade Organic Manuka Honey NPA 10+, Gotu Kola, Aloe Vera, Organic Calendula and Licorice Root to soothe and repair damaged skin their pilot study shows that 93% of people show significant improvement. The range is suitable for all ages, even for new-born infants. It is free from sodium laurel sulphates, parabens, coal tar, artificial colours and fragrances and contains no mineral oils or petrochemicals.
The Hope’s Relief range includes: Intensive Dry Skin Rescue Cream, Shampoo, Conditioner, Soap-Free Cleansing Bar, Moisturising Lotion, Goats Milk Body Wash and Goats Milk Soap. For more information visit www.hopes-relief.com. For help and advice see videos by Lindsey Miller visit: http://www.youtube.com/user/hopesreliefUK
Medical herbalist Lindsey Miller from Hope’s Relief, Australia’s #1 natural skincare range for eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis is educated to Degree level BSc. (Hons) Health Sciences & (Herbal Medicine) and has had over 6 years of practitioner experience and 6 years’ experience within the natural products industry.
Lindsey has wealth of healthcare knowledge and first-hand experience on what really works. Lindsey has been a featured health expert for various publications, online and on radio, her success stories using herbal medicine have also been featured on BBC News Website.