Eczema and food allergies in babies appear to be related. This is actually a controversial topic and you probably heard from different doctors that they ARE and ARE NOT related. This was my experience as well in 2012. There is more information these days showing that food allergies and eczema are related. Personally, I have found that certain foods do trigger my child’s eczema. It’s also an exciting time because there are new products and technology (which I will talk about) that may combat and prevent food allergies. These were not available several years ago, but as there is more awareness about eczema, there are more things coming out to help babies with eczema.
Can food allergy cause eczema?
First, let’s quickly introduce what is eczema. Eczema (AKA atopic dermatitis) is a chronic skin condition due to inflammation. This causes the skin to become dry and itchy. It can even become irritated and cracked. Eczema usually starts during early years of life (early as 3 months). Sometimes it may also develop in adolescence and adulthood for other people. There appears to be a genetic factor and it is triggered by environmental causes and allergies, including food allergens. Major eczema associations, such as the National Eczema Association1 (2020), are releasing statements that food allergy tends to co-exist with eczema (atopic dermatitis). Other medical conditions that can go hand in hand with eczema include asthma and allergic rhinitis (hay fever). Knowing a child’s food allergy triggers can help control their eczema. 2
What are the differences between the skin symptoms of food allergy and eczema?
There doesn’t appear to be much of a difference. They appear very similarly by the naked eye and even on a microscopic level. They found that for skin symptoms of both food allergy and eczema, the skin is prone to water loss, so it becomes dry easily. Also the skin barrier is affected. Lastly, there is a high amount of a bacteria called Staphylococcus Aureus.3
How can good eczema control help prevent food allergy?
Eczema and food allergies in babies are common. We don’t know if controlling eczema will prevent food allergies. On the other hand, there are other ways to possibly prevent food allergy that will be discussed later in this article. In the meantime, it’s important to know that there are several strategies for controlling eczema. First, avoidance of triggers is one strategy. Common triggers include environmental and dietary triggers. Also, a good moisturizer with the right ingredients is important to controlling eczema as well. Finally, healing the gut with probiotics and a healthy diet is another strategy to help control eczema.
How Do You Find a Food Trigger?
Finding food triggers that can flare eczema is very important. If you can find the triggers, you can avoid them and flareups. There are several tests and methods to find allergy and food triggers.
- Elimination Diet: this method involved methodically removing certain foods one food group at a time. (link to here )
- Food Challenge Test: this method involves feeding your child a suspected food allergy and monitoring for a reaction (this must be done under doctor supervision. Never do this on your own)
- RAST test (AKA Radioallergosorbent testing): this is a blood test looking for IgE (antibodies) to certain foods that can cause allergies
- Skin prick test: this involves pricking the skin with a small amount of allergen and checking for a reaction
There are newer tests coming out including a blood test called ImmunoCAP testing. However, the ones mentioned above are the most common methods used to test for food and environmental allergies.
How can I help control my child’s eczema?
Common and effective strategies include bathing to hydrate the skin and locking in the hydration using an excellent moisturizer regularly. It’s also important to identify triggers and avoid them whether environmental or food triggers. During flare-ups, it is important to reduce and prevent your child from scratching. This can cause bleeding and possibly an infection. It can also cause scarring of the skin. Most of all, scratching leads to itching and more scratching. It’s a vicious cycle. For babies, it is important to keep their fingernails short to prevent scratching and cutting the skin. Other medical strategies include antihistamines, topical steroids, phototherapy, and immunomodulatory medicine.
How Does Eczema Affect A Child’s Risk for Food Allergies?
Food can cause eczema (atopic dermatitis) to flare up, especially among infants or children with moderate-to-severe eczema.2 Certain foods can trigger a rapid allergic reaction. Given this connection between eczema and food allergies, a child has an increased chance of having food allergies if they have eczema. Some research papers states 20-80% of children with eczema also have food allergies. Bottom line, if your child has eczema, look out for food allergies and food triggers. It is becoming increasingly common for babies to have eczema and/or food allergies.
What Are the New Medical Guidelines for Food Allergy Prevention in Babies with Eczema?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a guideline in 2019 that recommends early and purposeful introduction of food allergens as early as 4-6 months of age to help stimulate the development of their immune defenses against food allergies. In other words, we may have control over preventing food allergies through early introduction, rather than avoiding allergens. In addition, the guidelines suggest that all babies should be introduced to peanuts starting 4-6 months of age, regardless of allergy risk. These guidelines were based on the Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study where 80% reduction in peanut allergy was recorded in children who consumed peanut early and often.4 Click here to read about the LEAP study and how to prevent food allergies.
What Should I Do to Reduce My Eczema Child’s Risk of Developing Food Allergies?
If a child is predisposed to having food allergies, there is not much to do for it. That does NOT mean that we can’t do anything. Looking at the LEAP study mentioned in the previous paragraph, exposing children to common food allergens early may be the way to prevent food allergies. There are many services and products available on the market that can help prevent food allergies, such as Ready Set Food, which promotes that risk of food allergies can be reduced by 80%. Click here to learn more about Ready, Set, Food!
Why is it so hard to find food triggers for eczema?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it is very hard to identify food triggers for eczema especially in younger children. There are currently no specific tests for diagnosing food allergies. The best test would be to give the food and look for a reaction. This is called the Food Challenge test.5 This is why it is very hard to specifically identify food allergies especially in children.
Is it ok to avoid food allergens for children with eczema?
Some parents who have children with eczema might eliminate common food allergens like milk and eggs. Most doctors would agree that this should not be done routinely as a well rounded nutrition is important in child development. Eliminating certain certain foods in a child’s diet should be reserved for children with severe case of eczema not responding to topical therapy or if a parents specifically has identified that a particular food triggers eczema. 5
What foods should I avoid while breastfeeding a baby with eczema?
Foods mother consume will get passed down to babies. If a child has eczema, certain foods that mothers consume can affect their eczema. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breastfeeding/lactating mothers with infants who have a high risk of developing eczema/atopic dermatitis should consider changing their diet by avoiding eggs, cow’s milk, and fish.6 Click here to read more about what foods can cause eczema in breast fed babies.
There is more research showing that food allergies and eczema are related. Food does appear to trigger eczema for some children. This has been my experience as well. I hope this article gave you more information about eczema and food allergies in babies. It is disheartening to hear that your child has eczema and/or food allergies, but there are services and products available that may help as discussed in this article.