Eczema and Food - What's the Link?
Food allergies are common among eczema suffers and can trigger or worsen symptoms. In fact, about one-third of eczema patients are sensitive to food triggers. With such a high number of eczema patients with food allergies, it’s recommended that anyone newly diagnosed with eczema, especially children, go through food allergy screening.
About Food Allergies & Eczema
A food allergy occurs when the immune system over-reacts to a substance that is normally harmless to others. It’s the immune system’s job to defend against antigens but for some people, the immune system is susceptible to inhaled, ingested, injected, or contact with antigens, causing an allergic reaction.
About Allergy Testing
Eczema can make allergy testing difficult and skin testing almost impossible. Because of this, RAST tests are suggested. (A RAST test is a radioallergosorbent test, or basically a blood test.) Your allergist can guide you about what to expect after your allergy testing. They can also help you to relieve symptoms of eczema with home treatment and medication. Please make sure you communicate with your doctor if an eczema rash becomes painful, abnormally swollen, or if the rash is accompanied by any fever, as these could be signs of bacterial infection.
Common Food Triggers
The most common food triggers for eczema are eggs, milk, peanuts, soy, and wheat; eggs are associated with the highest rate of flare-ups among eczema sufferers. If you or your child have eczema and are tested to be allergic to a food, strictly avoiding that food may help you to reduce the eczema symptoms.
However, families may be disappointed to learn that simply eliminating allergens from the diet might not be enough to hold the eczema at bay. While eliminating allergens from the diet helps many eczema sufferers, there are many people who find that abstaining from food triggers doesn’t alleviate the symptoms much, or at all.
In addition to food allergens, eczema can also be exacerbated by physical irritants like itchy fabrics or dryness, airborne allergens like dust and pollen, stress, and some infections. This can make it difficult to determine definitively whether or not there is a food allergy.
There are studies that have looked at the details of breastfeeding, and the use of probiotics to help prevent eczema in high-risk children. Exclusive breastfeeding for four to six months does seem to help in many cases, and probiotics given to infants might also help to prevent eczema. However, this research is not yet conclusive. Make sure that you ask your doctor before giving your infant probiotics.
There have also been studies as to whether or not late introduction of solid foods might impact eczema, but there has not been any compelling data to suggest that parents delay introducing solid foods to their children beyond the current AAP recommendation of four months.
Eczema tends to be most severe in young children under the age of five. Many families find that the symptoms lessen as the child grows older and they may even be outgrown.
If you or your child suffers from eczema and food allergies, it’s recommended that you strictly avoid those food allergens. While it may not work consistently, overall it can help to reduce, eliminate, or prevent further exacerbation of symptoms.