Eczema, which is also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic condition that affects the skin and makes it itchy and inflamed. This condition is most prevalent among young children and infants. Infants who have eczema usually develop red, itchy patches on their forehead, scalp, and cheeks, while older people often develop these on their hands and feet, wrists, and ankles.
Is there a link between eczema and food allergies?
Studies suggest that around 35% children, aged below five, suffering from eczema suffer from food allergies as well. These allergic reactions may trigger symptoms such as flare-ups, itching, hives, flushing, wheezing, gastrointestinal problems, vomiting, heartburn, and abdominal pain. This is why it is essential to get young kids with eczema tested for food-related allergies.
However, in many cases, children with eczema and food allergies tend to lose their allergy towards products, such as soy, milk, and wheat, after a few years. Once the allergy has completely gone, the child can resume eating these foods, and their symptoms will not worsen. But, before they are allowed to consume such trigger foods, one should check with a doctor for the same.
Are certain foods responsible for causing eczema flare-ups?
Diet can be considered partly responsible for causing flare-ups in children with eczema. When one tweaks their child’s diet and excludes certain trigger foods, the condition could improve. Since finding these trigger foods is not an easy task, one will need to work in unison with an allergist.
Some of the foods that can be considered as triggers for eczema flare-ups include the following:
- Peanuts and tree nuts
- Wheat products
However, it is important to note that these foods may worsen the symptoms of eczema, but may not cause the condition itself.
Following a fixed list of foods to eat and avoid may not always be beneficial as what may cause an allergy in one may be completely harmless to the other. Moreover, sometimes, food allergies may show up days after consuming a specific type of food. So, it might be difficult in identifying the trigger foods, especially in the case of a child. However, doctors may conduct certain test to find out the possible allergy triggers in order to chart a better treatment path for a child with eczema.
These tests include the following:
- Elimination diet: When a doctor suspects a food item to be responsible for causing allergies, he will ask for it to not be included in the child’s diet for around two weeks to see if it helps.
- Food challenges: By this method, the doctor will ask one to reintroduce a food which may have been eliminated from one’s child’s diet for a while to see if it triggers any symptoms. This test is usually done under medical supervision in case reaction occurs and immediate medical intervention is needed.
- Skin test: In this test, a doctor takes an instrument coated with food extracts and uses it to lightly scratch the child’s skin. In case the skin swells up, it indicates that an allergic reaction is being caused. However, this test may not be completely accurate.
- Blood test: The RAST or radioallergosorbent test is done to detect special cells in a child’s blood which can signal food allergies.
No matter the process, testing and checking for food allergy triggers will be time-consuming and will require hard work and patience. One will need to be methodical and eliminate only one food at one time. When one excludes both gluten and dairy together, and the symptoms improve, one will be unsure of which food item was a trigger. Sometimes, a skin test may be positive, but it should not be reason enough to do away with the food completely.
Studies have shown that many children test positive for certain foods, which were not causing the symptoms at all. Based on such false-positive cases, cutting out many nutrient-rich foods from the child’s diet may end up damaging their overall nourishment and growth.
Is choosing the right food for eczema enough to control the condition?
Along with identifying the trigger food, one will also need to adhere to the treatments prescribed by the doctor. These treatment options can include medications and even topical lotions and ointments that can also help in managing the symptoms effectively. Moreover, one will also need to ensure that their child is away from common allergens such pollen, dust mites, and pet dander.
Expectant mothers with a family history of the condition should follow a diet rich in fresh vegetables, fruits, vitamin D-rich foods, and fish to reduce the newborn’s chances of developing eczema.
Following a healthy lifestyle and consuming foods beneficial for managing eczema can help in coexisting with the condition efficiently.