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eczema and our environment

Posted by Heather Hamilton on March 08, 2012 21 Comments

I cannot tell you how many discouraged mommas contact me with questions concerning eczema. This is no surprise, considering eczema is one of the top skin problems in children. Children's skin is so incredibly delicate. It is highly permeable, making it very vulnerable to sensitivities.

One of the great challenges with eczema, is determining its causes or triggers. Let me quickly add that there are many schools of thought regarding the causes and treatment of eczema - but for the purposes of this post, I want to discuss how our environment contributes to eczema. We will be posting a series of interviews, discussions and articles over the next weeks focused on the topic of eczema, so keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive article on the subject.

Allergens, whether internal or external have been clearly linked to eczema. When our bodies are responding to an allergen, it makes perfect sense that our largest organ, our skin, would be affected! How many times have you heard that what goes on inside is reflected on the outside? This is true for diet, hydration, stress, sleep habits, disease/wellness...chance are, what goes on inside will most likely be visible in some form on the outside.

Our environment is full of pollutants and irritants that contribute to allergies. Fresh, clean air is hard to come by these days. Whether it be the toxins that linger in the air inside or out, or the chemical laden fabrics, detergents and skincare products, it is no wonder our children are suffering from irritated, inflamed skin.

Unfortunately, eczema can be a vicious cycle. An allergen irritates already sensitive skin, which a child scratches, making it more irritated, sensitive and vulnerable to the allergen. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what is causing the irritation in the first place, and by that time the eczema has spread and become more severe.

Although it is impossible to eliminate every toxin from our child's environment, there are many things we can do. One of my favorite organizations advocating for healthy, non-toxic environments for our children is Healthy Child Healthy World. If you haven't seen this video A Wake Up Story take a few minutes to watch it now:


I've shared before that as a very young child, I was allergic to seemingly everything. I was diagnosed with asthma at age 2 and a huge part of controlling the allergy induced asthma attacks was eliminating things in my environment that were triggers. Dust mites, animal dander, cigarette smoke, perfume, certain grasses and trees, you name it! Additionally, I was put on a whole foods diet, free from dairy, sugar, food coloring, etc. because these things had a negative impact on my quality of life. By the time I reached high school I had outgrown the asthma and no longer struggle with the allergens I once did. But what I have realized in my adult life, is how closely our well-being and overall quality of life are linked to our environment and diet. Our bodies give us clues all the time as to what is going on internally and there is so much we can do, if we take the time, to live better.

Here are some common external eczema allergens/triggers, and tips for eliminating them:

*House dust (dust mites) - try to eliminate as much clutter from your home as possible. If you can't get past the knick knacks or furniture on your counters or floors to regularly dust them, its time to get rid of some things. Regularly wash stuffed animals or other plush toys that may be dusty and consider using hypoallergenic or organic mattresses, pads pillows and sheets and wash them regularly. Carpet, couch cushions and drapes are all perfect for dust mites. Eliminating or regular washing will help control it.

*Wool/harsh fabrics that don't breath well. Fabrics are constantly in contact with your child's skin. Make sure they are cotton, organic cotton and bamboo are wonderful and there are so many more options for organic children's clothing now. Yes, they are more expensive, but consider buying less clothes and getting quality.

*Laundry detergent - skip the scented, harsh detergent and go with a mild, unscented one instead. Even Costco now carries eco-friendly, unscented detergents, or you can try some like Seventh Generation, or if you are really ambitious, make your own!

*Cigarette smoke, perfume or synthetic air fresheners or candles - keep your air clean!

*Harsh soaps, lotions or other skincare products. You know my position on this - I'm going to dedicate an entire post to this topic!

*Traditional housecleaning soaps and degreasers - your child comes in contact with most surfaces in your home and most traditional soaps and cleaning agents are a toxic concoction that leave a residue and permeate the air in your home for hours. Do your family a favor and get rid of all of the toxic household cleaners in your cabinet. Make your own cleaners using a mixture of water and vinegar or gentle castille soap.

*Overheating - central heat is another factor that can overheat and dry out the air (and contribute to dry skin). Keep your thermostat at a moderate temperature and use a humidifier to prevent the air from getting too dry.

There is a wealth of knowledge online offering tips for greening your home environment. I am currently reading the book Organic Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck and am learning that by taking steps to simplify and green my home, I can save money, time, preserve my families' health and live a better life!

Does any of this resonate with you? We want to hear your thoughts, experience and resources!

As I mentioned above, we are going to be posting a series of articles, interviews and discussions relating to the topic of eczema and I strongly believe that there is a wealth of knowledge within our community! So, we want to encourage you to share and then give back to you for doing so! See our previous post regarding the giveaways we will be doing in conjunction with this series on eczema.

Want to win a jar of organic Extreme Cream? Here is how to enter:

1. If you haven't already, LIKE us on FACEBOOK

2. Leave a comment here telling us what allergens you know of or suspect may be contributing yours or  your child's eczema. If you or your child don't have eczema, then leave a tip for greening your home environment.

Extra entries:

3. Help spread the word about or eczema series by tweeting (make sure to mention us @zoeorganics) or blogging about it. Leave a comment with your twitter handle or link to your blog post.

4. Get a friend to like us on Facebook and leave a comment telling us the name of your friend who joined us. Each friend who joins earns you 1 additional entry!

5. Sign up for our newsletter (this only counts if you haven't already signed up!)

Comments (21 Comments)

Congratulations to Leanne Gonzales! You are the winner of our Extreme Cream! Thanks for participating. :)

Posted by Heather on March 08, 2012

When I was younger I had eczema and it would flair up when I was stressed or over heated. It doesn’t flair up too often now. When my son was a new born until about 5 months he had something that looked like eczema but it has cleared up now.

Posted by Vanessa Betcher on March 08, 2012

I’m already a fan on fb

Posted by Vanessa Betcher on March 08, 2012

I know my son’s eczema gets worse when he plays with the cat and when he eats too many citrus fruits (even though he loves them!).

Posted by Lorilin on March 08, 2012

One of the causes that can contribute to eczema/dry skin in adults is stress. My mom is currently battling with severe dry skin on her cheeks, chin, neck, and lips. She does live in a dry climate (Alaska) and she is under a lot of stress on a day to day basis, unfortunately. Stress is something can effect just about everything!

Posted by Julie Atkinson on March 08, 2012

My 5 y.o. gets really bad eczema on his hands, pretty much year round. My hands seem to suffer from similar problems but I seem to find relief during the warmer months. I don’t have any idea if there are allergens causing these issues.

Posted by Trisha W. on March 08, 2012

A couple of years ago there as a little baby who had eczema really bad in my church, poor thing scratched all the time. I’ve always wondered if it was the soap they used.

I’m so glad that there are sites like these where I can find products for my future kids. I’ll never have to worry if I’m hurting their skin. I’ll know that I’m putting the safest things on their little bodies.

Posted by Lauren on March 08, 2012

I have some mild eczema that I think may be caused by heat {we live in FL} and dust, possibly detergent/fabric softener also. My son {5 mo old} has eczema fairly bad and I think it may be caused by heat, dust, detergents, and maybe even by dairy that I consume [he is breastfed]….
I think the worst part of eczema is trying to figure out the trigger{s}!

Posted by Leane on March 08, 2012

I ‘like’ you on FB–Leane Gonzalez

Thanks for the chance to win!

Posted by Leane on March 08, 2012

Thanks for your comments, ladies! I’m already learning from you… :)

Posted by Heather on March 08, 2012


Posted by Tara E on March 08, 2012

i’ve noticed that i need to change my son’s diapers often and do an extra rinse or two for my cloth diaper laundry to make sure all detergent is out. also using great natural diaper creams (we have zoe organics) helps.

Posted by Tara E on March 08, 2012

like on fb – tara elias

Posted by Tara E on March 08, 2012

I feel I have ruled out many of the common eczema triggers for my 2 yr old daughter (like detergent, the most common foods like dairy, sugar, yeast, etc) but have been able to “manage” it with heavy creams and careful selection of detergents and shampoos…but now my 4 month old son has eczema worse than my daughter did and our latest suspicion is that it may have been compounded by his vaccinations?!?

Posted by Pamela Koop on March 08, 2012

I am a fan on fb!

Posted by Pamela Koop on March 08, 2012

Tweeted: http://twitter.com/#!/Dolphin4176/status/60862787437604864

Posted by Amanda Alvarado on March 08, 2012

I tweeted!
tannis_z at excite dot com

Posted by Tannis on March 08, 2012

I think cleaning products have an effect on my eczema. I know that it often flares up on my hands after I’ve worn gloves and my hands have got warm and moist. Not fun when you’re a gardener!
I would love to try your products!
tannis_z at excite dot com

Posted by Tannis on March 08, 2012

I’m a fan of yours on fb
Tannis W
tannis_z at excite dot com

Posted by Tannis on March 08, 2012

I am the one with eczema along with my 17 yr old son! Luckily my daughter does not have it. I switched to natural laundry det. to try to help with mine since I was already using it for dd’s cloth diapers. Not really an allergen but overheating is what makes mine flare. Unfortuantely there is nothing I can do about that since my job requires me to be out in 90+ weather during the spring/summer w/ a kevlar vest on. My chest is itching like crazy by the time I get home!

Posted by Amanda Alvarado on March 08, 2012

AAF on facebook – amanda alvarado

Posted by Amanda Alvarado on March 08, 2012

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