Spring has arrived and nature is starting to reveal all its beautiful colours. Days are bathed in sunshine and everything is beginning to bloom. Atopic dermatitis patients mostly look forward to spring days, as spring sweeps away troublesome winter months and brings about sunny weather with temperatures neither too warm nor too cold. The majority of people with atopic dermatitis experience noticeable alleviation of their symptoms, but unfortunately this isn’t the case with everyone. The awakening of nature with flowers, bushes, trees and grasses in bloom is a huge challenge for many, as inhaled allergens are potent triggers of atopic dermatitis. It’s also important to keep in mind that ⅔ of atopic dermatitis patients suffer from hay fever and ⅓ (according to some data even 50%) develop asthma. Below I will provide a few steps you can take to control your atopic dermatitis flare-ups and allergies in spring.
As a rule, antihistamines have no impact on the itch in atopic dermatitis patients, but they are essential in fighting allergies. At this time of the year, the air is full of pollen, which causes hay fever and skin rashes due to allergies.
Allergic reactions that occur due to exposure to inhaled allergens are important triggers of atopic dermatitis. Thus it is sensible to use antihistamines in spring in the form of tablets and/or eye drops. Ask your doctor to prescribe you antihistamines in the form of single-use liquid-filled capsules, as these contain fewer preservatives. If you have problems with allergic rashes, you can also ask for an antihistamine preparation for local skin treatment.
Springtime skin and hair care
Atopic dermatitis is a disease that requires a lot of care, adaptation and planning. Skin care with atopic dermatitis is different from each individual, the response to irritants, the time of year, the outside temperature, and so on. The advice I can give you regarding skin care is to listen to yourself and your child. Just because something suits the skin of your acquaintance or the skin of her child does not mean that it will suit you or your family member.
Take care of your skin regularly by applying skincare products that suit you or your child best. To soothe inflamed skin, keep your creams in the refrigerator. Because the temperatures are on the rise and you will begin to sweat more, the creams you use should be lighter but still nourishing. If you notice that your cream doesn’t suit you anymore, has lost its effect or even worsens your symptoms, think about replacing it. Winter skincare can be stressful for your skin and it might get “tired” of the products that you have been using on it for so long. The cream no longer successfully soothes your skin and even deteriorates its state. In this case, stop using the cream for a certain period of time (e.g. half a year) and try to find another suitable product. Apply zinc cream (not ointment) onto the red and inflamed skin. In the evening, you may also apply a skincare cream on top of the zinc cream layer. To calm the itch, keep your bedroom temperature down to 19 degrees Celsius.
Skincare products on skin are magnets for pollen and other environmental irritants. After returning home from outdoor activities, clean your skin with a cotton towel and lukewarm water. This will allow you to remove irritants from it. Apply your creams again. If itching occurs, calm down and give the skin the time it needs.
Hair is often a source of irritation for atopic dermatitis patients. Because we usually don’t wash our hair daily, pollen and other environmental irritants deposit in it. If you have short hair, wash it daily. If your hair is long, wash it more frequently than usual. Use mild hair care products that don’t irritate the scalp. Atopic dermatitis patients may also experience irritation from hair falling on their face, which is why they should keep it in a ponytail. I also recommend the use of hair bands made from cotton.
Atopic dermatitis patients are locked in an eternal struggle with red, itchy and weeping eyes. Eyelids may become sticky, there is a feeling of sand in the eyes or the eyes may begin to ooze pus. Allergic conjunctivitis occurs very often in people with atopic dermatitis as a result of allergic reaction to air allergens. What can we do about it?
- Artificial tears (saline solution). Eye drops are essential in springtime. They will help maintain your eyes moist and soothe eye inflammation. Most importantly, they will remove allergens from your eyes. Have them on you at all times and use them immediately when the first allergy symptoms occur.
- Sunglasses. Eyes are extremely sensitive and start to swell and itch quickly. Sunglasses can be of use here. You can wear them all the time, even in the evening or when it’s cloudy. They help reduce the amount of allergens and pollutants that come in contact with your eyes. They also cover up inflamed and swollen eyelids with scratch marks that many atopic dermatitis patients struggle with, preventing that part of your skin from getting unwanted attention.
- Swollen eyelids. Use apple vinegar compresses to soothe swollen eyelids. Apply the apple vinegar solution onto a folded towel. The vinegar-water solution should be in the ratio of 1:3. While resting in a dark room, keep the vinegar compress on closed eyes for 30 to 60 minutes.
Pollen allergy can trigger asthma symptoms, which makes breathing difficult. But pollen isn’t the only cause of spring allergies and asthma. Air pollution and temperature changes can also worsen your symptoms. Always carry all the necessary medications with you.
Allergens in closed living spaces can be controlled with cleaning and aeration. Because springtime is also the time of spring cleaning, I’m listing the main sources of indoor allergens below. These are:
- soft furniture,
- plush toys,
- house plants,
- pillows, blankets, mattresses and bed linen.
Measures to take:
- Remove all carpets and curtains from your apartment. Allergens (pollen, mittens, pet dander etc.) get stuck in carpet fibres and are difficult to remove. Avoid buying plush toys.
- Wash bed linen once per week.
- If you’re allergic to pollen, keep the windows closed. If you have it in your apartment, turn on the air conditioner. If you’re allergic to indoor allergens, such as fungi, mittens, pet dander and dust, air your apartment frequently. This will help you remove allergens from your home.
- Wipe all the surfaces in your apartment with a wet towel daily. I advise you not to use chemicals or cleaning towels, as these contain irritants that can worsen your atopic dermatitis, allergies and asthma.
- Get rid of any objects in your apartment that don’t do anything but catch dust.
- Regularly clean mold that accumulate in your bathroom or possibly on your windows.
- If you can afford it, try using HEPA filter air purifiers and consider purchasing anti-allergy bed linen.
Temperature fluctuations are very frequent in spring. Cold mornings turn into unusually warm afternoons for this time of the year. Wear light, breathable clothes made from cotton and dress in layers. Be especially mindful of what your children are wearing, as they are very active and sweat quickly. Sweat is one of the most potent triggers of atopic dermatitis.
Hang your winter coats in the closet and replace them with thick terrycloth shirts and light jackets. Children often get distracted during outdoor play and forget about skin irritation, but they begin to scratch intensely upon returning home. Frequently ask your child if he or she feels hot and adjust the clothes accordingly. After washing the clothes, don’t dry them outside. Hang them indoors or use a clothes dryer.
Stress and incorrect diet
I wrote many times about how stress impacts atopic dermatitis. But stress also has a negative impact on asthma and allergies. Take time for yourself. Meditate or indulge in a massage. Your diet should be wholesome, colourful and composed of unprocessed foods. It should nourish your soul as well as your body.
We’re getting closer to the family holiday of Easter. As is the case with many other holidays, children with atopic dermatitis are often overlooked. Keep in mind that they already face an overwhelming amount of restrictions every day. They can’t enjoy your typical Easter treats: milk bread, ham, eggs, chocolate eggs and bunnies. Sitting at a table laden with goodies they can’t eat makes them feel uncomfortable and left out. Family holidays are very important, so make sure that even the most vulnerable members of your family are able to enjoy them. Bake breads that your child can eat and shape them into cute chicks or Easter eggs.
Children with atopic dermatitis often react poorly to cow milk products, so offer them vegan chocolate Easter eggs, which you can buy in specialised stores or online.