Eczema on a person's forearm and elbow.
Research shows that if a person has eczema, they're 20% more likely to develop asthma, compared to a person who doesn't have eczema.

Eczema and Asthma

Eczema and asthma are two very common disorders that affect both children and adults. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American reports that about 25 million people in the U.S. have asthma. According to the Cleveland Clinic, about 15 million people have eczema.

Although they are two different conditions, they sometimes go hand in hand. But why is there a connection between eczema and asthma? Keep reading below to find out.

What is Asthma?

Asthma involves a long-term lung condition that leads to inflammation and constriction of the airways. The cause is not clear, but it appears to run in families. Some people have allergic asthma, where they develop symptoms after exposure to certain allergens. Typical symptoms of asthma include:

  • Wheezing.
  • Coughing.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Chest tightness.
  • Increased mucus.

In some cases, asthma attacks can become life-threatening. Treatment often includes reducing triggers, inhalers and steroids to reduce inflammation.

What is Eczema?

Eczema is a long-term skin condition that causes inflammation in the skin. The cause is not clear. But similar to asthma, eczema also appears to run in families. Symptoms may come and go depending on exposure to allergens or other triggers. Symptoms of eczema include:

  • Red skin.
  • Itching.
  • Swelling.
  • Oozing skin.
  • Crusted patches of skin.

Although eczema can be bothersome, it is not a life-threatening condition. Treatment of eczema often includes avoiding triggers and taking medication, including steroids, antihistamines and ultraviolet light therapy.

Why Are People With Eczema More Susceptible to Asthma, and Vice Versa?

There appears to be a strong link between having eczema and asthma. People who have one condition have an increased risk of having the other. According to the National Eczema Association, about 20% of people with eczema also have asthma.

Researchers have not concluded why people with asthma are more likely to develop eczema and vice versa. But doctors do know that both conditions lead to excess inflammation in the body. In the case of eczema, the inflammation is in the skin. With asthma, inflammation is in the airways.

Also, a flare-up of both conditions often occurs due to a reaction to environmental allergens. Doctors believe that an overreaction within the immune system due to an allergen triggers inflammation in the skin. But in people who have that overreaction, it may also trigger inflammation in their lungs. It could be different allergens or triggers, but their body is sensitive to certain things that cause an inflammatory response.

Regardless of the exact reasons, it is clear that people with one condition are at a much higher risk of developing the other. In a study in BMC Dermatology, researchers found that babies who had eczema in the first two years of life were about three times more likely to develop asthma by 5 years old, compared to infants without eczema.

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What Can Someone With Asthma Do to Prevent Eczema?

If you have asthma, it may not be possible to prevent the development eczema, but there are a few things you can do to decrease your risk of eczema flare-ups, such as the following:

1. Get Tested

If you have asthma, ask your asthma doctor about allergy testing. If you know what allergens trigger asthma, you can avoid them, which may also reduce eczema flare-ups.

2. Choose Products Free of Common Triggers

To err on the side of caution, choose personal hygiene products free of dyes and fragrances, which may irritate eczema-prone skin.

What Can Someone With Eczema Do to Prevent Asthma?

Similarly, if you have eczema, you may not be able to completely prevent asthma. But since you may be prone to the condition, there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk.

1. Quit Smoking

People who have eczema should decrease their risk of lung irritants and avoid smoking and being around secondhand smoke.

2. Avoid Lung Infections

Everyone should avoid lung infections, but people prone to asthma should take extra steps to decrease their risk of lung infections, such as getting a flu vaccine, washing their hands often and avoiding large crowds during flu and cold season.

3. Maintain a Healthy Weight

People who are overweight appear to have a higher chance of developing asthma. Getting to and maintaining a healthy weight may cut the risk.

In Conclusion

Whether they occur separately or together, there is no way to absolutely prevent asthma or eczema from developing. If you do have both conditions, it is important to take steps to reduce your risk of a flare-up of either condition. For instance, work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that includes reducing triggers and taking medications as prescribed.