Food Allergy Guidelines as They Relate to Eczema

March 8, 2012

Kristopher Denby, MD

Food allergy can be a confusing topic and not all bad reactions to food are actually due to an allergy. If you think you may have a food allergy, discuss it with your doctor.

Food allergy is a common problem affecting as many as 1 in 25 young children but is much less common in adults.  Food allergy is more common in people with eczema.  Among children under 5 who have eczema, as many as 30% may also have food allergy. Allergic reactions to food can cause a variety of symptoms including skin features such as hives, itching, flushing or eczema flares or shortness of breath and wheezing, or gastrointestinal complaints such as vomiting, abdominal pain, or heartburn.

Young children with moderate to severe eczema should be tested for food allergies if they have had one of the reactions noted above to a food that occurred shortly after eating it. Testing is also recommended if their eczema has not improved with standard medical care.  The food allergies most important to test for in this age group are egg, milk, peanut, wheat, and soy. Current studies indicate that people with eczema and egg allergy feel less itchy on an egg-free diet. For people with other food allergies, it is not clear if avoiding those foods will improve their symptoms.  Nonetheless, experts currently recommend that people with food allergies avoid the foods that they are allergic to.

Most children with food allergy will lose their food allergy to milk, egg, soy and wheat after several years, but peanut and tree nut allergy may be more persistent. After losing their food allergy, these children are able to eat that food without any worsening of their eczema or other symptoms.  Children whose response to a food allergy included both skin and breathing problems were much less likely to lose their food allergy than children who had only skin or gastrointestinal symptoms.

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