Previously, doctors used to think of eczema as an allergic reaction. They now know it’s not… Today, the skin condition is linked to an imbalance in the skin microbiome and weakened skin barrier. However, eczema is nonetheless intertwined with allergies and asthma.
Together, seasonal allergies (hay fever), eczema (atopic dermatitis), and asthma form the atopic triad. Maybe you’ve even noticed that you or your child suffer from one or more of the co-occuring conditions.
Because of how frequently these conditions occur together, we want to shed some light on the phenomenon of the atopic triad.
What Is the Atopic Triad?
The atopic triad is a formal way to refer to the connection between seasonal allergies, eczema, and asthma. What, exactly, is the connection? Well, studies show that having one of these conditions makes you more at risk of developing two or all three of these related conditions together.
While food allergies aren’t considered part of the atopic triad, it’s worth mentioning that eczema also seems to be related to food allergies. Thirty-seven percent of children with moderate to severe eczema also deal with food allergies.
What causes these connections? We’ll discuss more soon. First, here’s a quick breakdown of the triad and an explanation of what you may experience with each condition:
Out of all of the three conditions of the atopic triad, eczema is typically the first to appear. The term “eczema” is used to describe a grouping of seven skin conditions, the most popular and often recognized being atopic dermatitis. That’s the form of eczema we’ll be referring to today. It appears on the skin as a red, itchy, and dry rash.
Eczema most commonly shows up in children but can develop at any age. If your child starts having eczema early on in life, this could be a warning sign for seasonal allergies and asthma, but, of course, although the risk of these conditions is increased alongside the appearance of eczema, they are not guaranteed to develop.
According to WebMD, 80% of children with eczema will develop either asthma or seasonal allergies later down the line.
The next condition in the atopic triad is seasonal allergies, which people often call “hay fever.” More technically, hay fever is referred to as “allergic rhinitis.” Hay fever can cause a runny nose, coughing, watery eyes, and sneezing. Because of these symptoms, the condition is often confused with the common cold.
However, the common cold and seasonal allergies are not the same. Hay fever is caused by environmental allergens, including pollen from grass, trees, and other plants, as well as dust and animal dander. Many people associate hay fever with the fall when ragweed is blooming and hay is being cut; however, you can experience hay fever any time of the year.
Asthma is the third condition associated with the triad, and it’s often regarded as the most severe. In some cases, asthma flare-ups can become life threatening. The disorder causes inflammation in your airways, making them swell and grow narrow. It can also cause your body to produce excess mucus. This combination of effects makes it difficult to breathe. Symptoms include difficulty breathing as well as chest pain, cough, and wheezing.
What Causes the Triad?
Researchers continue to investigate the link between these three conditions. However, the connection is still not entirely understood to this day. Some of the most supported theories link back to a disruption in the skin’s natural barrier.
A disruption in the skin barrier means more pathogens, including allergens, enter the body. Without a strong frontline defense from your outer layer of skin, the internal environment is left at risk.
When pathogens enter the body, your immune system reacts and causes inflammation. Acute inflammation is a healthy and necessary response to any virus, infection, or allergen that attempts to threaten the body. Inflammation becomes a problem, though, when it becomes chronic as a result of a continually weakened skin barrier and never-ending battles with environmental threats.
Here’s the sequence of events: Disruptions in the skin barrier can lead to eczema, more pathogens entering the body through inflamed skin with a weakened defense mechanism can cause your immune system to go into overdrive, which contributes to the development of hay fever and asthma.
Research also shows there is a genetic component to the related conditions. If a parent has atopic dermatitis, asthma, or hay fever, that increases the chances that a child will develop atopic dermatitis. In fact, if a mother has allergies, there’s a one in three chance her baby will have eczema.
How Does Eczema Affect the Atopic Triad?
Eczema is often the first condition to appear out of the atopic triad. That means being aware of the skin symptoms to look for if you have a family history of eczema, seasonal allergies, or asthma will help you find treatment faster and more effectively. By treating eczema in its early stages, you can help to avoid further damage to your skin’s protective barrier and implement microbiome-balancing lifestyle habits into your routine quicker (although it doesn’t hurt to be preemptively doing them too).
If you or your child already has eczema, be on the lookout for the other symptoms of the triad. It may be wise to see a primary healthcare provider or specialist in order to be prepared if either of the other comorbid conditions occur.
Manage the Atopic Triad
Because the exact cause of the atopic triad remains unknown, managing symptoms can be a difficult task. However, with a few lifestyle adjustments, you can find what works best for you to help relieve your symptoms.
- Monitor pollen levels to predict symptoms and plan accordingly.
- Clean regularly, including wet dusting and vacuuming to help remove allergens.
- Get an air purifier to help reduce allergens and dust.
- Maintain a gentle, preservative-free skincare routine to keep the skin’s protective barrier. intact and working properly.
- If you or your child are experiencing coughing or difficulty breathing, visit a doctor right away. These may be signs of asthma.
- Get to the root cause of a weakened skin barrier with the Gladskin Eczema Cream that works to rebalance your skin microbiome and relieve dry, irritated skin.
The Atopic Triad and You.
Based on current research and theories, we now understand just how important the outer layer of skin is. That’s why a gentle yet effective skincare routine can be one of the best ways to promote health. A weakened skin barrier may even be the root cause of what we now know as the atopic triad, the link between eczema, asthma, and seasonal allergies.