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Maybe you have noticed there are specific times you get a HS flare-up. Then again, perhaps you haven’t. For some, there are patterns to their HS breakouts. And if you can figure out what triggers you, you can avoid them. And you may be able to prevent some of your HS flare-ups.

While we don’t know what causes HS, we do know somethings can trigger breakouts. Knowing which factors, you react to allows you to combat some of your disease. Here are five things that can make HS flare-ups worse and how you can deal with them.

1. Diet

HS flare up trigger food

Certain foods are thought to trigger HS lesions. Some foods encourage inflammation. As well, those foods may also increase your risk of conditions like diabetes or heart disease. And people with HS have an increased risk of developing those conditions.  Potential trigger foods include:

  • Dairy
  • Sugar
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Nightshade vegetables.

Nightshades are vegetables like potatoes, peppers and aubergine. On the plus side, some foods have anti-inflammatory effects. Foods high in fibre like oats, lentils and beans are thought to reduce inflammation.

Changing your diet is a big step. Make sure you give it to some thought because spare of the moment diets don’t work.  Also, you should only change your diet under the supervision of a doctor. If you have any questions or concerns, make an appointment with your GP.

2. Obesity

Obesity - HS Flare

Okay many of us may have heard this one before. Or every time we go to the doctor. But hear me out. There is little evidence that obesity causes HS. Nobody knows what causes HS. But what we do know is that people of all sizes get HS.

However, certain facts about living in a bigger body may aggravate your lesions.  Rubbing and chaffing can damage your skin and break healing boils.

If you’re overweight, losing some weight might be a good option for you. It’s hard, I know, and everyone loses weight differently. Like everything else in HS, weight loss may be a matter of trial and error. Why not try an exercise class or a new healthy cookbook? Invite a friend along. Whatever you do, make it fun.

3. Smoking and HS Flare-Ups

Smoking - HS Flare Up

Smoking may worsen HS symptoms.  A recent study found that smokers are twice as likely to have HS than non-smokers. That is, of course, not to say smoking causes HS. Non-smokers get HS too, just not as much.

But HS has a lot of influencing factors.  Large- scale studies like this tell us that smoking may very well be one of them. We also know that smoking is a contributing factor to heart attacks and stroke. And as you may know, people with HS are already more prone to heart disease. So really there is a lot of reasons to quit.

4. Weather

Heat and sweat - HS Flare Up

Some people experience more flare-ups during hot weather. This may be to do with sweat. Sweat is part of your body’s internal cooling system. And sweat is generally clean. But when it interacts with air, it can lead to bacteria growth. That is especially true if it’s on your skin for a long time.

This might explain why some people’s HS symptoms worsen in the summer. Some things you can do to combat weather-related flare-ups include:

  • Wearing breathable clothes
  • Keeping your bedroom cool at night
  • Using a skin-friendly antiperspirant

5. Stress and HS Flare-Ups

Stress - HS Flare Up

Some people report an increase in HS breakouts when they are stressed. And in this modern world, we have a lot of stress.

Stress produces a chemical called cortisol. And I’m sure you know cortisol is a fight or flight hormone. But did you know, in the right doses cortisol regulates inflammation and your immune system? However, when you are chronically stressed, your body gets used to cortisol. This makes cortisol’s anti-inflammatory properties less effective.

Try making time for things that relax you. That could be reading or art. It may even be TV or yoga. Taking time for yourself is essential in all areas of your life. So long as it helps you switch off and makes you happy, then it helps.


All of that said, everyone’s body is different. There are no one-size-fits-all when it comes to chronic disease management. For you to take some control over your condition, you may need to experiment. Keep track of those things you think may trigger your HS flare-ups and decide what you want to do about them.

There is one final thing you need to know. You have not caused your HS. And your breakout is not your fault. That stands even if you eat dairy or put on weight. Our aim when writing an article like this is to empower you to make the changes you want to. But you should not feel any pressure. It’s your body and only you decide what to do with it.

About the Author

Shannon hidradenitis suppurativa patient

Shannon Sweeney is MA student in Community Research & Journalism from Ireland. She is also living with HS and has a keen interest in lifestyle, wellbeing and hidradenitis suppurativa.

HidraWear is more than just a wound care solution. It is a community. A community-built on trust, knowledge and empathy. We aim to write articles that will add value to our reader's life. To make sure you never miss an article, follow us on social media at @Hidrawear.