A recent study* published in the British Journal of Dermatology has tried to answer this important question. The authors sought to identify which environmental factors might worsen eczema.
They studied sixty children with eczema aged between 0 and 15 years for up to nine months. The severity of eczema for each child was measured using questionnaires and a proven system called the Patient-Orientated Eczema Measure (POEM). The environmental factors they monitored included temperature, relative humidity, sun exposure, sweating, clothing, cleansing products/washing, outdoor pollen level, extent and nature of exposure to household pets, dusty environments and swimming.
Each patient (or parent) completed a daily questionnaire which included questions on the state of the eczema, clothing worn next to the skin and exposure to shampoo, dusty environments and animals.
The results suggested that nylon clothing and wool, dust, unfamiliar pets, sweating, swimming and shampoos may play a direct role in worsening eczema in children and this may be more pronounced in cold weather. Combinations of exposures acting in concert may also be important. The authors commented that this knowledge may be useful to families with eczema and could lead to better strategies for preventing flares.
* What causes flares of eczema in children?
S.M. Langan; P. Silcocks; H.C. Williams The British Journal of Dermatology 2009;161(3):640-646