Managing New Triggers is a Balancing Act

Atopic dermatitis is a variable condition. It can even look completely different between individuals. When it comes to the things that can trigger an atopic skin reaction, that statement also rings true.

I have been thinking a LOT about eczema triggers lately. That is because there are some new and unwelcome additions to my list of personal triggers. While I do my best to try and avoid these triggers, unfortunately, there are some triggers that I can’t entirely remove from my environment. However, I endeavor to be more mindful of how these triggers interact with my body. Ultimately I hope that by applying not only record keeping but mindfulness and avoidance strategies, I can reduce the severity of my flare-ups.

What have I been keeping track of?

This has been of paramount importance as of late because I've had my worst, most uncomfortable “not-even-summer” yet on record. I started to notice new trends in these triggers by way of keeping a record on a note-taking app on my phone. When I notice any flare-up symptoms beginning I take note of the following:

  • When they start (the calendar date)
  • Where the flare-up is located on my body
  • What activities I did during the day

When taking note of the activities I have done during the time a flare-up has occurred I have tried to not leave anything out, no matter how mundane or irrelevant it may seem.

What did I find was triggering my eczema?

It was by using this system that I was able to identify that too much direct sun exposure and insect bites can trigger a flare-up of my atopic dermatitis. It took me nearly a month to see the pattern but because I was able to identify it I was able to apply strategies to minimize the discomfort.

Well, at least when it comes to sun exposure-triggered flare-ups. (I have yet to find something that keeps the mosquitos off of me, so if anyone has any tips I would be most grateful. AND much less itchy!)

Reducing the amount of direct-sun exposure I was getting helped minimally. It turned out that using a super high-strength sunscreen was more effective overall. However, my skin still isn’t super fond of sunscreen and even the “sensitive skin” or “made for atopic skin” variations often cause my skin to react in other ways. On my face and chest that comes in the form of cystic acne. I just can’t win.

What other unexpected triggers have I discovered?

Another annoying thing about triggers, at least in my case, is that they can change without rhyme or reason. I have been using the same laundry soap for several months now. I thought I had hit the proverbial jackpot with this soap!

It hit all my expectations:

  • Nice scent? Check!
  • Cold water wash option to help with energy costs and the environment? Check!
  • Doesn’t aggravate my eczema? Check!

Week after week I lived in laundry bliss. Until all of a sudden, I was evicted. No rhyme or reason as to why this laundry soap suddenly was "Public Enemy No. 1" as far as my skin was concerned. All I know is that the old, familiar scene played out. I put on a piece of my freshly washed clothing and within half an hour I was developing an itchy spot on my leg.

Initially, I wasn’t sure it was the soap. I had been using it for months with zero issues for goodness sake! It was only about a week after this first reaction I was able to establish a pattern through my phone flare-up journal. Every day since that first reaction my skin reacted to my clothing.

Guess it’s back to sensitive baby laundry soap for me!

Why do I feel like I'm juggling so much?

Sometimes I feel like a carnival performer spinning plates on top of poles when managing the interactions between various triggers for my atopic dermatitis, other chronic health conditions, and my general well-being.

However, I am trying to come to a place of acceptance about it all. Changing triggers, ebbs and flows in flare-ups, and having to modify shopping habits continually is just a part of the atopic dermatitis experience.

There is no easy way to deal with an ever-changing chronic condition. At least I have a safe place like this to come and share my experience, read others' stories, glean ideas for relief and even just complain sometimes.

Do your triggers ever change? How have you adapted? Let me know in the comments and stay cool and itch-free my friends!

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