Allergies can play a part in AD and can be a common trigger for many people.1,2 The sorts of things you may be allergic to can vary widely, but generally, people with AD are more likely to have allergies to things like food and pollen.2
So, identifying any allergens that trigger your AD may make some flare-ups a bit easier to avoid.2
An allergy is a chronic condition caused by an abnormal reaction to a substance called an allergen.3
If you have an allergy, your immune system views this substance as an invader and thinks it’s protecting your body by fighting back against the allergen.3 But, this actually kickstarts a chain reaction that, instead of protecting you, does the opposite.3
Allergens can include certain foods, as well as airborne substances like pollen, dust mites or pet dander.2,3 These allergens can trigger an allergic reaction for some people with AD, which in turn can cause a flare-up.2
Pet dander is actually a combination of skin, fur and saliva that can linger in the air for hours and attach itself to furniture, carpets, and your clothes.4 Coming into contact with pet dander can result in an allergic reaction if your body recognises it as an invader.4
Let’s break down what AD actually means. ‘Dermatitis’, as you may know, means inflammation of the skin. But it’s the term ‘atopic’ that provides the key to what causes it: atopy is the genetic tendency to develop allergic conditions, typically along with increased reactions to allergens.5
This tendency is, in part, due to having an immune system that’s overactive.6
In fact, in this scenario, the immune system is, kind of, doing its job too well. Instead of being laid back about the allergens, it reads them as a threat and overreacts.3 So, when a substance like pet dander is absorbed, the immune system may overreact – which can then contribute to a flare-up.4,6
For some people, AD is associated with a damaged skin barrier.2 This damage allows more allergens to enter the skin and may lead to other allergies developing too.2
Unfortunately, there are plenty of things out there we can potentially be allergic to. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Some common food allergies are associated with worsening AD symptoms, including:7
If you think you might be allergic to any kind of food, have a word with your doctor to evaluate potential allergies and discuss appropriate treatment or testing options. And, in the meantime, it’s probably best to avoid the foods you know can act as triggers.
There are four common types of airborne allergens that we’ll talk about: pet dander, dust mites, mould and pollen.8 Because they’re all around us in the air that we breathe, airborne allergens might seem a bit harder to avoid, but there are still some things that you can try that may help.3
If you’re concerned that you might be allergic to a particular food, ask your doctor about taking a food allergy test. The test usually involves slowly eating food and gradually increasing the amount. This will always be performed under medical supervision.
If you think your AD is affected by allergies, but you’re not sure what it could be, ask your doctor about general allergy testing.
These tests can either be skin or blood tests, which help to identify any potential allergens that may be contributing to your flares.2,9
As if having AD wasn’t enough, it also can be the first step for some people in developing conditions such as asthma and hay fever (technically called ‘allergic rhinitis’).10
It might seem like a strange link. AD is a condition that appears in the skin, whereas asthma is associated with your airways, and hay fever, with your nose.1,11
But despite their differences, they are all ‘atopic’ conditions – in other words, related to allergic reactions – and can occur because of an imbalance in the immune system.10
Ever noticed that dust or humidity can make your symptoms worse? That's because the world around you can impact your AD.Find out more
Your AD can change with the seasons. So come rain or shine, it's good to understand the impact the seasons have.Find out more
Some of the foods you eat may impact AD, so it might be time to start checking your shopping list.Discover more
Bieber T. Ann Dermatol 2010;22:125–137.
National Eczema Association. Eczema, Atopic Dermatitis and Allergies:What Is The Connection? https://nationaleczema.org/atopic-dermatitis-and-allergies-connection/. Accessed August 2021.
AAAAI. Allergy Defined. Available at: https://www.aaaai.org/tools-for-the-public/allergy,-asthma-immunology-glossary/allergy-defined/. Accessed August 2021.
Mayo Clinic. Pet allergy. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pet-allergy/symptoms-causes/syc-20352192/. Accessed August 2021.
AAAAI. Atopy Defined. Available at: https://www.aaaai.org/tools-for-the-public/allergy,-asthma-immunology-glossary/atopy-defined/. Accessed August 2021.
National Eczema Association. Beyond the eczema rash. Available at: https://nationaleczema.org/beyond-the-eczema-rash/. Accessed August 2021.
Dhar S et al. Indian J Dermatol 2016;61(6):645–648Z.
Hostetler SG et al. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol 2010;3(1):22–31Z.
Mayo Clinic. Allergy skin tests. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/allergy-tests/about/pac-20392895/. Accessed August 2021.
Zheng T et al. Allergy Asthma Immunol Res 2011;3(2):67–73.
National Eczema Association. Conditions Related to Eczema. Available at: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/related-conditions/. Accessed August 2021.