The cause of atopic dermatitis isn't known. But most people who have it have a personal or family history of allergies, such as hay fever (allergic rhinitis). The skin inflammation that causes the atopic dermatitis rash is considered a type of allergic response.
Itching and rash can be triggered by many things, including:
- Allergens, such as dust mites, pollen, molds, or animal dander.
- Harsh soaps or detergents, rubbing the skin, and wearing wool.
- Workplace irritants, such as fumes and chemicals.
- Weather changes, especially dry and cold.
- Temperature changes, such as a suddenly higher temperature. This may bring on sweating, which can cause itching. Lying under blankets, entering a warm room, or going from a warm shower into colder air can all cause itching.
- Stress. Emotions such as frustration or embarrassment may lead to more itching and scratching.
- Certain foods, such as eggs, peanuts, milk, soy, or wheat products, if you are allergic to them. Up to 40% of children with moderate to severe atopic dermatitis also have some type of food allergy.1 But experts don't agree on whether foods can cause atopic dermatitis.
- Excessive washing. Repeated washing dries out the top layer of skin. This can lead to drier skin and more itching, especially in the winter months when humidity is low.