ECZEMA AND FOOD ALLERGIES
If you have eczema, you may also have food allergies, whether you are aware of them or not. People with eczema have a tendency to be allergic, which means they can have any of a number of other allergic conditions. In addition to food allergies, these include hay fever (allergic rhinitis) and asthma.
For some people, food allergies may be completely separate from their eczema. For others, especially children, eating foods to which they are allergic can make eczema worse.
Food allergies cause a wide range of symptoms. On one end is a slight reaction with a little itching and redness around the mouth. On the other end is a full-blown reaction called anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition which affects the skin, the throat and windpipe, the intestinal tract, the respiratory system, and eventually the circulatory system. In a full-blown attack, a person will not be able to breath and his or her blood pressure will drop. This is called anaphylactic shock. If not treated promptly at the onset, it can be fatal.
Anyone who has had a severe reaction to food needs to be completely evaluated and all precautions taken so that an anaphylactic reaction does not happen.
However, mild food allergies may only cause itching. You may not realize that it is making eczema worse. This is very common in children.
Children are given solid food by their parents at different ages and in different orders. The most common food allergies in childhood are to eggs, cow’s milk, peanuts, tree nuts and sesame seeds. There are others that are less common or less well-proven, including allergies to kiwi fruit, soybeans and soy products, and wheat. Allergies to fish, shellfish and some other fruits and vegetables can come on in later childhood or adulthood.
Most cases of allergy to eggs and milk resolve by the time a child reaches the age of 7 years and 5 years, respectively. Other allergies tend to persist.
At the current time, there is no treatment for food allergy except avoidance of the food. People subject to anaphylaxis as described must carry auto-injectors that can deliver a dose of adrenalin in the case of accidental ingestion.
Parents of children with eczema and adults with eczema need to know that food allergies can be contributing to their eczema. If any food causes itching or redness around the mouth, it is possibly a food that is worsening eczema.
If you or a family member has had eczema for a long time, or if you are having trouble controlling it, you may have visited an allergist already. If not, and you suspect food allergies, you need to have this evaluated. An allergist may also have suggestions for dealing with the other related problems.
Skin tests, during which tiny amounts of substances are introduced under the skin, may show a positive reaction to foods, as well as pollens and other things in the air. If your skin is already very bad, blood tests may be a better way to evaluate food allergy. If you have a positive skin or blood test to a food you believe you are allergic too, it is very likely that you have a real food allergy.
Eliminating all of the foods you or your child are allergic to may help calm down eczema. Happily, children usually outgrow food allergies, especially to eggs and milk. Peanut allergies often persist, and peanuts can be difficult to avoid. But the food allergies most associated with eczema most frequently are gone before middle school.