We stayed recently with friends whose soon-to-be toddler has detergent-reactive eczema as bad or worse than our son did at that age. Going detergent-free in their home took more work than we did in our case, and what we did was enough! Fortunately, as their baby enters toddlerhood, their baby’s skin will become naturally less permeable and so can tolerate more detergent exposure without breakouts. But, I warned, at their baby’s age, they have one more difficult autumn, then it should be smooth sailing from there.
I encourage people with this problem to maintain the changes over time – even when susceptibility to breakouts decreases as children get older and their skin becomes naturally less permeable – to keep that reduced antigen load and hopefully reduce asthma and other allergy risk. Their skin should also stay more substantial and less dry that way. But when that threshold to breaking out increases, it is no longer is necessary to sweat the small stuff. As toddlers enter early childhood, they may even seem to “outgrow” the eczema. Unfortunately, sometimes, then “autumn eczema” hits.
As everyone with eczema knows, weather and humidity modulate eczema severity.
Summertime humidity can be such a help to those who are in the problem-solving stages, or who have a baby whose exposures are very difficult to control. Unfortunately, when autumn rolls around, and the heat comes on indoors – drying the air – people with detergent-reactive eczema become more susceptible to breakouts from lower levels of detergent.
I have in the past told friends to write a note about this in their calendars and not to panic if they see new breakouts at this time – they just have to be a little more vigilant to bring detergent exposure down to a lower level for awhile. (Usually they forget and panic anyway, but soon sort it out with just a little more vigilance.)
As I point out on my site, absent detergents that increase skin permeability, even dry air will not result in eczema in susceptible individuals. If you’ve gotten lax like we always did over the summer, now might be a good time to increase vigilance about exposures to prevent those autumn breakouts. (Or, wait until the heat comes on and just remember not to panic…)