Eczema and Food Allergies Connected

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As if having itchy rough skin isn’t bad enough, eczema and food allergies seem to go hand in hand.

Two new studies have shed more light onto the connection between a child having eczema (“atopic dermatitis” if you’re fancy) and developing food allergies.

Eczema in kids under five with eczema is likely caused by food allergies, whereas eczema in older kids, teens, and adults is usually caused by aero-allergens like pollen, dust, or pets.

eczema and food allergies

When it comes to food-triggered eczema, it can take 6-48 hours after ingestion for the person’s eczema to worsen — making it tricky to pinpoint which food is causing the problems. However, a food elimination diet can help narrow things down. One study on eczema and food allergies showed that the most common foods causing eczema flare-ups were milk, egg, and soy.

The alarming part was that during a follow-up visit, many of the patients who’d had these “delayed” eczema flare-ups in the past after eating specific foods were actually having immediate reactions like hives and vomiting. Close to 1/3 of the patients even experienced life-threatening anaphylaxis.

The doctors were shocked by the sudden increase since nothing else had changed with their subjects, but their research uncovered something interesting: a history of asthma among those who had developed an immediate reaction, as well as the subjects avoiding the foods that were causing eczema flare-ups.

Totally avoiding foods that cause eczema flare-ups may not be a good idea, because that may ruin your child’s ability to tolerate those foods — putting them at a higher risk of anaphylaxsis. That’s consistent with the breakthroughs earlier in 2015 about early exposure potentially reducing a child’s chance of developing food allergies (especially with peanuts).

One of the studies on eczema and food allergies recommended that children with food-triggered eczema carry an epinephrine auto-injector just in case they suddenly experience an immediate reaction.

Experts estimate that 30-40 percent of people with eczema also suffer from food allergies, and the percentage of food allergies seems to increase with the severity of a person’s eczema. 


Heather Laura Clarke, a contributing writer at Scratch or Sniff, lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, with her high-school sweetheart husband, seven-year-old son, and five-year-old daughter. She writes for newspapers and magazines across Canada and the U.S., and blogs about her family life at Heather's Handmade Life. Follow her adventures on Twitter or Instagram.

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