Asthma and eczema are two conditions that occur due to long-term inflammation. Although the conditions differ, there is a link between eczema and asthma. This may be a result of genetic susceptibility or environmental triggers.

Asthma and eczema both occur due to inflammation. In some instances, the inflammation occurs in response to an allergen.

They are two distinct conditions that affect different organs and systems. Asthma affects the lungs and respiratory system. Eczema affects the skin. However, researchers identified an association between them.

The article below covers the link between eczema and asthma, whether allergies cause flare-ups, what other triggers may be, and management techniques for both conditions.

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While not everyone with eczema develops asthma, and vice versa, there is a link between the two conditions.

The National Eczema Association estimates that about 20% of adults with eczema also have asthma. Meanwhile, a 2021 research article indicates that the prevalence of asthma in people with eczema is 14.2–52.5%.

There are also other possible links between the two, as discussed below.

Severity of eczema

The severity of eczema also appears to influence the association between asthma and eczema. For example, roughly 20% of children with mild eczema develop asthma. The percentage that develop asthma increases to about 60% when children have severe eczema. Having eczema can also lead to increased asthma severity. It can also cause a greater persistence of asthma into adulthood.

The exact reason why people with eczema are more likely to develop asthma remains unknown, but both occur as a result of long-term inflammation.

Genetics and environmental triggers

People with both conditions may have shared genetic susceptibility for allergies and environmental triggers.

This 2021 systematic literature review found people with eczema and asthma have increased production of immunoglobulin (IgE) in response to an allergen. IgE are antibodies the immune system produces to attack what it perceives as a harmful substance.

Co-occurring conditions

Doctors have identified a pattern in the connection between eczema, asthma, and allergies called the atopic march. The conditions above tend to occur in a certain order starting in childhood.

The sequence usually starts with eczema. Allergies occur next, and then, asthma develops. Genetics and environmental factors may be at play.

Additional research is necessary to determine the exact link. However, elevated IgE levels, a disrupted skin barrier, genetics, and allergic sensitizations appear connected.

Find out more about the two conditions and how to manage them.

The cause and trigger of a flare-up of symptoms may vary by individual. However, in some instances, allergies may play a role in eczema and asthma flare-ups.

Eczema and allergies

According to the National Eczema Association, in people with eczema, their immune system becomes overly reactive to an irritant or environmental allergen. Flare-ups of eczema may develop when the skin comes in contact with an allergen.

However, other types of allergies may also cause an increase in eczema symptoms, such as food allergies.

For example, a 2021 study explored possible links between moderate-to-severe eczema and peanut allergies. The study found that out of 321 infants between 4 and 11 months old, peanut allergies developed in:

  • 18% of infants with eczema
  • 19% with other food allergies
  • 4% who had a family history of peanut allergy

This suggests that moderate-to-severe eczema and other food allergies may better predict peanut allergies than genetics.

Eczema resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and in-depth resources on eczema.

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Asthma and allergies

Similarly, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America discusses how individuals with asthma may also have a flare-up of symptoms due to a response to an allergen.

Too much IgE may trigger inflammation or swelling of the airways in the lungs. This may make it harder to breathe and may trigger an asthma flare-up or attack.

Allergens, such as pollen, pets, and dust mites, may trigger allergic asthma, sometimes called atopic asthma. Approximately 80% of people with asthma have allergies.

Seasonal allergies or year-round allergies may also trigger asthma. Examples of allergies include:

  • tree, grass, or weed pollen
  • animal dander
  • dust mites
  • mold

Asthma and allergy resources

To discover more evidence-based information and resources for living with asthma and allergies, visit our dedicated hub.

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In addition to allergies, other things may also trigger asthma and eczema. The airways of people who have asthma can become sensitive to certain factors that can exacerbate or worsen asthma symptoms. These are referred to as triggers.

Asthma triggers

People with asthma have different triggers. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, possible asthma triggers may include:

  • exercise
  • respiratory infections
  • stress or other strong emotions
  • tobacco smoke
  • air pollutants
  • breathing in cold air
  • sudden changes in weather
  • strong fragrances
  • certain medicines, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Read more about asthma triggers.

Eczema triggers

In addition to allergies, other things can also trigger an eczema flare-up. According to the Asthma and Allergy Network, possible triggers of eczema include:

  • dry skin
  • heat
  • some soaps, bubble bath products, and shampoos
  • fabrics, such as polyester and wool
  • certain chemicals, such as in cosmetic or personal care products

Find out more about eczema triggers.

Anecdotally, people report there is currently no cure for asthma or eczema. However, treatment helps ease symptoms. The exact treatment plan often depends on the severity of a person’s symptoms and the frequency of their flare-ups.

Keeping a log to identify the possible triggers is helpful. Once someone determines their triggers, they should take steps to decrease exposure.

Anecdotally, people suggest individuals should track the following:

  • when symptoms started
  • the activity they were doing
  • any emotional responses
  • environmental conditions, such as if they were outside or inside and the weather conditions

Asthma management

People with asthma should work with a doctor to develop an asthma action plan, including taking medication(s) as prescribed.

According to the American Lung Association, asthma management includes:

  • speaking with medical professionals during any routine appointments
  • creating an asthma plan with a doctor
  • keeping track of symptoms
  • understanding the role of medication(s)
  • reducing triggers
  • finding out ways to self-manage symptoms

Examples of medications used to treat asthma may include bronchodilators. Short-acting bronchodilators work to relieve symptoms quickly, and long-acting ones provide more long-term relief when combined with inhaled steroids.

Read more about managing asthma.

Eczema management

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, management for eczema includes:

  • avoiding scratching the skin
  • using a moisturizer to keep the skin hydrated
  • using a topical steroid cream to reduce itching
  • taking antihistamines to decrease symptoms related to allergies and itching
  • wrapping the affected area(s) in wet compresses to ease itching and inflammation

Learn more about managing eczema.

Asthma and eczema are two separate conditions, but they often occur together. Researchers have identified a link between having eczema and an increased risk of developing asthma. The risk appears to increase in people who have severe eczema.

Various factors may contribute to the link between the two conditions, including elevated immunoglobulin levels, genetics, and environmental triggers.

Allergies also appear associated with both asthma and eczema and may trigger a flare-up of symptoms for both conditions.

People should work with a doctor for ways to manage triggers and ease symptoms both in the short and long term with medications.