Oats aren’t just a great addition to a nutritious breakfast — they’re also a common ingredient in skin creams meant to soothe eczema symptoms. Many people with eczema find relief using oat-based products, such as lotions and creams. Oats have natural anti-inflammatory properties that can help ease itching and redness.
Importantly, although oatmeal baths and oat-based products are popular choices for managing eczema, they may not be effective for everyone. Eczema is a complex skin condition with various triggers, and what works for one person may not work for another.
Some people are allergic to oats and may experience eczema flare-ups after eating or even touching them. During a flare-up, widespread, persistent, and stubborn skin symptoms may have a significant impact on your daily activities and quality of life.
Members of MyEczemaTeam have shared how they discovered their eczema triggers. “I went to an allergist for a skin test. They test you for foods, animals, grasses, molds, and so much more! It really is informative,” explained one member.
Another member wrote, “When you eat something and break out or start itching, then you know to knock whatever that is off the eating list.”
Although rare, oat allergies can trigger eczema symptoms. Here are some eczema-related symptoms of an oat allergy in adults and children worth discussing with your health care provider.
Itchy skin is a common food allergy symptom. Proteins in foods, including oats, can cause an inappropriate immune system response, potentially worsening symptoms if you already have a skin condition like eczema.
In addition, some people with celiac disease (hypersensitivity to gluten) experience reactions to oats due to cross-contamination during food processing. Although oats are naturally gluten-free, they can still trigger gluten-related issues if they’re processed with other grains. Dermatitis herpetiformis is a gluten-related skin condition that causes eczema-like flare-ups and itchiness.
If you suspect your itching is from gluten sensitivity rather than an oat allergy, you should be fine with oat products labeled as gluten-free. A blood test can help determine if your symptoms are related to oats or gluten.
Allergy-triggered inflammation can cause swollen patches on the skin from an overactive immune response. The interaction between oat proteins and the immune system can amplify the inflammation already associated with eczema for those who are sensitive to oats.
You may have swelling, particularly around areas of direct oat exposure (such as with creams or lotions that have oat ingredients). Along with irritation and discomfort, swelling can make moving and exercising more difficult.
People with an oat allergy and eczema might notice small raised bumps or hives on their skin. Oats contain proteins that trigger a histamine release in people who are allergic to them. This bumpy skin can be itchy and discolored, affecting the way your skin looks and feels.
Oat allergies can contribute to skin dryness and cracking. Eczema-prone skin is already vulnerable to moisture loss due to a weaker skin barrier. An allergic reaction to oats can make it harder for the skin to stay hydrated. Severe dryness and uncomfortable cracking may also limit movement and put you at risk for infections.
In severe cases of oat allergy with eczema, a person’s skin might start to ooze or weep. A combination of oozing skin and eczema can lead to a vicious cycle of infection risk. When your skin barrier is compromised, your body is less protected against infections. When your skin becomes wet from oozing, you may worry about staining clothing or other fabrics, like furniture. Applying topical eczema treatments to actively weeping areas of the skin can also prove difficult.
No matter how careful you are, you can still get exposed to pathogens (bacteria or viruses) during daily life. Any contact with other people, animals, and even the natural environment raises your chances of bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. While a strong skin barrier can keep these germs from getting into your body, areas of broken skin make your body vulnerable to potentially harmful invaders and further complications.
All people with eczema should be mindful of infection risk, regardless of their triggers. Maintaining good hygiene habits is essential, as is reaching out for medical care at the first sign of infection. Infections can cause fevers, chills, skin that’s warm to the touch, tenderness, and other symptoms like nausea or lightheadedness. Let your doctor know right away if you think you have an infection so you can take care of it before it spreads or gets worse.
Having eczema can mean your skin is particularly sensitive to allergens. However, your skin may not be the only organ affected during an allergic reaction. Allergies can cause mild symptoms or severe reactions. People with food allergies usually show symptoms shortly after eating the offending food. If you’re allergic to oats, you’ll probably experience symptoms within minutes of eating them. Although less likely, it’s also possible to have delayed food allergy symptoms that take several hours to develop.
Common symptoms of food allergies include:
Mild symptoms such as nasal congestion, runny nose, or gastrointestinal problems may be managed with over-the-counter antihistamines. An allergist can do a skin prick test to help identify your triggers so you can try to avoid them. In addition, if you’re allergic to a particular ingredient, you may need to avoid touching it as well. This means that people allergic to oats should avoid skin care products containing colloidal oatmeal or oats.
However, severe allergies can lead to a life-threatening response called anaphylaxis. During anaphylaxis, the airways close up, making breathing difficult. As a result, people with severe allergies may be required to keep emergency treatment on them at all times in case of accidental exposure. Your dermatologist or other provider can prescribe an epinephrine autoinjector for severe allergic reactions to oats or other allergens.
Eczema’s itching and discomfort can make it hard to get a restful night’s sleep. When you’re living with an oat or other food allergy, these symptoms can be harder to manage and impact your quality of life more severely. Itchy, inflamed skin caused by the allergic reaction can leave you awake and scratching through the night. As a result, fatigue and stress can interfere with work, relationships, and other responsibilities.
Managing an oat allergy and eczema can take a toll on your mental and emotional well-being. Constant itchiness, pain, and visible skin symptoms can raise your anxiety levels or leave you feeling depressed. Recognizing and addressing the psychological impact of eczema is crucial for you or your child who’s affected by the condition.
Navigating the relationship between oat allergies and eczema requires medical advice, allergy tests (via blood analysis and/or skin testing), social support, and lifestyle changes. Adjusting your skin care routine and checking for oat ingredients in your food and cosmetic products can help you gain control of your skin symptoms. Including a mental health professional as part of your eczema care team can play an important role in living well with this chronic condition.
MyEczemaTeam is the social network for people with eczema and their loved ones. On MyEczemaTeam, more than 49,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with eczema.
Have you experienced oat allergy symptoms or skin reactions after eating oats in foods like granola or cereals? What about after using certain skin care products that contain colloidal oatmeal or oat flour? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.