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What can cause eczema and skin irritations?

Read on to discover what causes eczema in adults including some triggers which may surprise you.

Updated

woman against pink background scratching arm for what causes eczema in adults

Key steps to identifying skin irritation causes

  • Check if symptoms get worse after taking certain medications or drinks like alcohol. 
  • Keep your house clean and dust-free and see if it makes a difference - dust and pet dander are common allergy triggers.
  • Quit smoking and ask others to smoke outside and see if it eases your allergies.
  • Speak to your doctor for advice and treatment if the eczema becomes severe.

What causes eczema in adults? The answer could be many things. See if the answers to our common eczema questions, below, can help you get to the bottom of the source of your irritation.

Eliminated any environmental factors and still suffering with eczema? Speak to your doctor! They may be able to prescribe a medicated cream.

What causes eczema in adults? FAQs answered

Can cat hair cause eczema? Can dust trigger eczema? What about medication, food, drink, and carpet? Let's find out.

  1. What causes eczema? It’s not easy to pinpoint exactly what causes eczema in adults as it can be a combination of genetics and environmental triggers. If you have an over-reactive immune system then it is likely that you will be more susceptible to eczema. Other factors can include dehydration and dry skin conditions.
  2. Can stress cause an eczema outbreak? No-one, not even scientists, is quite sure why higher stress levels can cause worsening eczema symptoms, but it can. If you notice your symptoms getting worse, consider any changes in circumstance or environment and try reducing your stress levels to see if it has an impact.
  3. Can medication cause eczema? As untreated dry skin is one of the most common causes of eczema, it is likely that there are certain medications which could make your eczema worse. Medications which are prone to drying out your skin include diuretics, statins, and immune-modulating drugs such as interferon or ribavirin.
  4. Are there drinks which can affect my eczema? Can milk trigger eczema? Can alcohol cause eczema? Unfortunately, the answer is yes on both counts. Milk can trigger eczema if you suffer from a dairy or lactose intolerance; which happens to be one of a few conditions that can come hand in hand with eczema - typical. As for alcohol, it is a diuretic which means it is likely to dry your skin out which can lead to eczema. It’s important you stay hydrated if you are drinking alcohol to avoid making your eczema worse.
  5. Can other conditions lead to eczema or make my eczema worse? Unsurprisingly there are a number of conditions which can trigger eczema. These include dry skin, excessive sweating, hay fever, asthma, and even food allergies. For more details, check out our article on sensitive skin causes.
  6. Can carpet cause eczema?  A lot of everyday products around you could be the cause of your eczema or the reason it seems to be getting worse. Carpets are one of them. Some people are sensitive to carpet fibres or even to the products they use to clean them. If you notice your symptoms get worse after cleaning your carpet or coming into contact with certain fabrics, items, or products then it's a good indication that they're a trigger and should be removed from your home if possible.
  7. Can cigarettes cause eczema?  Cigarette smoke, rather than cigarettes themselves, can trigger eczema. Try to quit if you are a smoker and ensure that those around you smoke outside or away from you where possible.
  8. Can cleaning products trigger eczema? Yes - cleaning product allergies are quite common with symptoms including dry skin. Make the swap to mild options like Dove, Persil Non-Bio and Comfort to tackle these allergens and read our articles on dealing with washing powder allergies and cleaning product allergies.
  9. Can dust mites make eczema worse?  Pests like dust mites can be a trigger for eczema and are often be found in carpet fibres and other household fabrics. Keep on top of your household cleaning and vacuuming to remove dust mites and read our advice on how to prevent dust allergies.
  10. Can pet dander affect my eczema?  If you have cats, dogs, or other fur-babies in your home then they could be making your eczema worse. Check out how to reduce pet dander in your home for more tips on dealing with this.

Hopefully this article has helped unearth many of the potential triggers that can cause eczema - the next step is learning how to treat it. Try our advice on identifying and managing eczema triggers.

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Originally published