Food allergies and eczema are strongly linked, so many parents question whether food allergies cause eczema. Learn whether food allergies cause eczema.
Rashes may be the first symptom that led you to wonder whether your child has food allergies. Because there’s a strong link between food allergies and eczema, many parents question whether or not food allergies cause eczema.
The short answer is no. Food allergies do not cause eczema.
What is Eczema?
Eczema is a group of conditions that cause the skin to become red, itchy and inflamed. It’s important to know that eczema is not contagious and that while there are many types of eczema, atopic dermatitis is the most common.
Eczema is similar to how allergic reactions occur: the immune system abnormally reacts to fight off an irritant and this causes the rashes.
More than 30 million Americans have eczema and about 1 in 10 individuals will have eczema during their lifetime. The condition peaks in early childhood. An estimated 9.6 million children in the US under 18 years of age have atopic dermatitis. If there is asthma or allergies in the family, the risk for developing eczema increases.
In children under two years old, rashes commonly show up on the cheeks and scalp. These rashes can be itchy enough to disrupt sleep. The rashes also make infants susceptible to skin infections because of scratching. Beyond two years of age, the rashes appear on other parts of the body like the neck, knees, elbows, or the crease between the legs.
The Link Between Eczema and Food Allergies
The cause of eczema is not yet known, but it has been associated with the development of food allergies. Currently, scientists are still studying the link between eczema and allergies. It was previously thought that eczema was mainly caused by allergies, but this is not the case. However, food allergies can cause eczema symptoms to appear if your child is already suffering from eczema.
Recent studies are now starting to attribute eczema to other possible causes. It could be because of a genetic flaw where the skin lacks a layer that protects against germs and dries out the skin. It could also be due to a defect in the skin barrier or having problems with a type of white blood cell that produces chemicals that help keep allergic reactions under control. Another possible cause is having too much immunoglobulin E, a type of antibody that is responsible for allergic reactions.
What we do know is that eczema can be triggered by various factors such as stress, environment, climate, sweat, hormones, dry skin, common cold, irritants, and allergens.
According to findings based on LEAP (Learning Early About Peanut Allergy) data, it has been found that the skin bacteria Staphylococcus aureus increases the food allergy risk of babies with eczema. Up to 67% of babies with severe eczema will develop a food allergy. If the child is under five years old and has moderate to severe eczema, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology recommends getting evaluated for peanut, egg, milk, wheat, and soy allergies.
Treatment for Eczema
There is no cure for eczema and there is also no single test that can diagnose it. A pediatrician or an allergist may diagnose your child with eczema by examining the skin. Allergy tests may be recommended to confirm suspected allergies that trigger eczema flare-ups. The best treatment is still early allergen introduction.
To treat eczema, doctors may prescribe corticosteroid creams or ointments, antihistamines, antiviral and antifungal medications, moisturizers, and antibiotics. The treatment would depend on the symptoms, its severity, and what causes them.
If your baby has eczema, medical guidelines recommend introducing them to allergenic foods frequently as early as 4 months old.
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