AD tends to flare-up when the person is exposed to certain trigger factors—substances or conditions which worsen the dermatitis such as dry skin, irritants, allergens, emotional stress, heat and sweating, and infections.The key to controlling AD is avoiding or reducing such exposure. People with atopic diseases are usually sensitive to certain agitating substances. Some of these substances are irritants and others are allergens. Irritants are substances that cause burning, itching or redness such as solvents, industrial chemicals, detergents, fumes, tobacco smoke, paints, bleach, woolens, acidic foods, astringents and other alcohol containing skin care products and some soaps and fragrances. If an irritant is potent or concentrated enough, it can irritate anyone’s skin, whether they have AD or not.
Allergens are more subtle trigger factors. An allergen does not irritate, but may trigger an AD flare-up in those who have become allergic to it from prior exposure. Allergens are usually animal or vegetable proteins from foods, pollens or pets. When people with AD are exposed to an irritant or allergen to which they are sensitive, inflammation producing cells come into the skin. There, they release chemicals that cause itching and redness. Further damage occurs when the person scratches and rubs the affected area. All AD sufferers must avoid irritants, while those with known allergies should likewise avoid allergens.