The young people we talked to felt that a ‘healthy lifestyle’ was important for managing eczema, as well as using treatments like emollients and steroids. However, keeping good routines, such as eating well and having enough sleep, can be difficult – particularly when the person became more independent.
Food, eating and cooking
A wide range of foods were said to make eczema flare-up (see also triggers). Some people tried cutting some foods out of their diet to work out which made their eczema worse. Hazel remembers being unable to eat sweets given out at birthday parties when she was little. Himesh found that goat milk was a good alternative to eating/drinking cow milk. Others didn’t know of any particular food that affected their eczema, but thought an ‘unhealthy diet’ of processed and sugary foods was bad for their skin. In contrast, drinking lots of water to keep hydrated was seen as good for the skin.
Some people found they could eat certain foods but not touch or prepare them in raw form, such as: tomatoes (Aisha), potatoes (Laura), chicken skin (Ele) and citrus fruits (Lizzie, Sarah). This can make cooking difficult and be painful. Katie-Lauren and her boyfriend divide up cooking tasks so they can still make dinners together without her eczema being irritated by touching raw ingredients. Naomi enjoys baking cookies but doesn’t like it when the dough ‘gets all caught’ on her hands.
It can be difficult to work out if changing diet helps with the skin. A trial time of cutting out the food and keeping a food diary may be useful, if someone thinks certain foods are making their eczema worse. Some people who tried to maintain a healthy diet said they hadn’t noticed any change in their eczema. Other triggers, such as season changes, may make more of a difference to some. Many people wanted to find a balance between managing their eczema but not missing out on the things they enjoyed. Molly said that cutting out sugary foods would probably help her eczema, but that she doesn’t do this because she enjoys eating them. Himesh strikes a balance when eating cheese by taking an antihistamine tablet to counteract the impact.
Alcohol and smoking
Drinking alcohol often dries out the skin, as well as dilating the blood vessels, meaning eczema becomes more red, itchier and uncomfortable. Gary finds rum in particular causes his eczema to flare-up. One exception is Lizzie who hadn’t noticed a difference to her skin from drinking alcohol. Alcohol shouldn’t be drunk with some medical treatments, as for Cat taking immunosuppressants and Sarah when she was on antibiotics.
Smoking was also said to make eczema worse. A few people smoked occasionally on nights out but thought it would help their skin to avoid this. Gary once quit smoking to see if his eczema improved but found it made no difference. Instead, he says that alcohol and smoking helps him relax which he thinks is good for his eczema overall.