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Can Milk Allergies Cause Eczema in a Child?

As any parent of a child with a food allergy will tell you, finding the cause of your child’s symptoms and the best ways to avoid them is key to ensuring a happy and healthy life. Of course, this is often easier said than done, as the signs of a food allergy can sometimes be confusing. This is also true for children with an allergy to cow’s milk protein. One such sign may be the appearance of dry, red, or itchy skin – which could be a condition called atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema. While eczema can be caused by variety of factors1, there are some cases in which it is related to a food allergy. So, can milk allergies cause eczema in a child, and how can you tell if this might be the case for your little one? To find out, keep reading as the team at Cambrooke – makers of hypoallergenic formulas for children with milk allergies – provide some insight.

The Link Between Milk Allergies and Eczema in Children

According to the National Eczema Association, there is a clear link between atopic dermatitis (eczema) and food allergies2. As many as 30% of individuals with eczema also have food allergies, and young children with atopic dermatitis are 6 times more likely to develop a food allergy when compared to children without atopic dermatitis3.

Some people with food-related atopic dermatitis will see symptoms within hours of coming into contact with their particular allergen. However, some outbreaks can take a few days to manifest, making it very difficult2 to identify whether the two conditions are linked. Signs of eczema usually appear very quickly in children with IgE-mediated milk allergies. Some non-IgE-mediated allergies tend to have more delayed effects, which is why linking the appearance of eczema to a milk allergy can be quite a challenge sometimes. Luckily, an allergist can perform certain procedures to determine if a food allergy may be the cause of a flare in children with chronic eczema or those whose eczema is accompanied by other, more severe symptoms.

Is My Child’s Eczema Caused by a Milk Allergy?

As mentioned above, not every case of eczema is related to a food allergy. Still, because a link does undoubtedly exist, parents should consider the possibility of food allergies as a trigger if they notice persistent eczema in their child. The following are a few of the ways that you or your healthcare provider may be able to tell if your child’s eczema is related to a milk allergy.

Spotting Other Symptoms

One of the potential signs that a milk allergy -or other food allergy- may be contributing to your child’s eczema is if skin irritation occurs in conjunction with other, often more severe, symptoms of a milk allergy, including the following:

  • Swelling around the mouth or in the throat
  • Vomiting
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing

These symptoms usually occur within minutes to a few hours following the ingestion of a particular food allergen. Even in cases where only a few or none of these symptoms appear – along with eczema – there’s a fair chance that a food allergy may be a contributing factor. Recording your child’s symptoms along with the time they occur, as well as what your child eats, may help your pediatrician or allergist in identifying if a food is one of the causes of your child’s eczema.  Because there are significant risks associated with elimination diets2, it is important to have a conversation with your child’s healthcare provider to determine if avoiding foods as part of managing your child’s eczema is right for you.

Performing Tests

To help identify if your child’s eczema is linked to food allergies, your child’s allergist may perform tests commonly used to diagnosis food allergies.  One of these tests is a skin prick test4, which involves lightly pricking your child’s skin with a small plastic probe or needle, allowing a tiny amount of solution containing the food allergen to enter below the skin.  The doctor will then monitor for the formation of a raised bump, known as a wheal, at the location where the skin was pricked. If no wheal appears, it is unlikely your child is allergic to the tested food. The second test is a blood test5, which checks the levels of immunoglobulin-E to a specific food in your child’s blood. Since neither of these tests is 100% accurate4,5, your child’s healthcare provider may recommend an oral food challenge, to determine if there is a link between food allergies and what is triggering eczema in your child.

Under the supervision of an allergist, an oral food challenge requires giving your child a food containing the potential food allergen in slowly increasing amounts with the purpose of observing any reactions, such as an eczema flare. While this test carries more risk than a skin prick or blood test, allergists are specially trained to deal with any reactions that occur, significantly reducing the risk to your child. And because this test allows the allergist to observe any symptoms that may indicate the presence of a food allergy it is often considered the best option. Still, those with milk allergies featuring delayed reactions may be tougher to diagnose6. In addition, it is recommended that eczema be well controlled prior to conducting a food challenge so this test may not be an option for children with poorly controlled eczema symptoms.

Safe, Nutritious Formulas Available for Children with Milk Allergies and Eczema

If a milk allergy is identified as one of the causes of your child’s eczema, your healthcare provider will likely recommend removing all foods containing milk ingredients from your child’s diet. While this measure may help reduce the severity or frequency of eczema flares and other adverse symptoms, a lack of nutrients normally provided by milk can make nourishing your child a challenge. That’s why Cambrooke offers several hypoallergenic, amino acid-based formulas designed to provide complete nutrition to children with milk allergies without the risk of a reaction. To learn more about all our products and how they can benefit your family, visit Cambrooke online or call us today at 1-833-377-2773.