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Is My Child’s Rash a Sign of Food Allergy?

 Since kids with food allergies may have eczema flare-ups, it is important to understand what it is and how the cause of eczema may be related to food allergies.

Atopic dermatitis – or eczema as it is commonly called – is characterized by dry, red, itchy skin that may be accompanied by asthma or hay fever. It is a common problem in children – regardless of whether or not they have food allergies – and can often be long-lasting.

Eczema usually begins in early infancy and typically affects about 10 percent of all children. Skin normally helps retain moisture to form a barrier that protects you from bacteria, irritants, and allergens, but in children with eczema their skin does not provide this protection.

Genes, environment, as well as psychological, immunological and infectious factors can all contribute to the occurrence and severity of eczema. In fact, food allergies may play a role in eczema in some children. The main risk factor for eczema is a family history of eczema, allergies, hay fever and/or asthma.

Foods and their relationship to eczema are a complicated matter.  While reactions to food(s) can make symptoms worse in some children, for many children, food allergy is not an influencing factor in their eczema. Common foods that may cause or contribute to eczema include milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, fish, shellfish and soy.

For children who are allergic to eggs, studies show that they may relieve any symptoms of itchiness from eczema on an egg-free diet. For kids who have other food allergies, it is unclear whether or not removing the allergens from their diet will improve their symptoms.

For children who outgrow their food allergy, they are usually able to consume the food without worsening their eczema symptoms. Furthermore, kids who experience skin and breathing issues are less likely to lose their food allergy over time than kids who only have skin and/or gastrointestinal symptoms.

Diagnosing Eczema

For kids who have eczema, it can be more difficult to identify a food that could be triggering the problem since symptoms may not appear for several days and other triggers may overlap in timing with food consumption. Skin testing and blood tests in conjunction with a detailed history can also be helpful in identifying potential allergies, specifically IgE-mediated food allergies. In children with severe eczema, skin testing may need to be avoided or delayed until the eczema is controlled enough to provide a rash free area of skin on which to perform the tests.

In some cases, doctors may recommend an elimination diet in which the potential trigger food is eliminated for 10-14 days to see if it makes a difference. They may also recommend a food challenge in which you slowly re-introduce a potential trigger food in a controlled, medical setting to assess the reaction that your child has to it.

While you are trying to identify the cause of the problems, it is important to keep using home treatments to improve symptoms and avoid potential allergens including dust mites, pollen and pet dander.

Many parents believe that diet is the underlying cause of their child’s eczema, however there may be several interrelated factors contributing to symptoms and altering or restricting food intake could potentially have negative consequences that affect a child’s nutrition, growth, and development.  For this reason, it is recommended to seek the guidance of a doctor prior to eliminating multiple foods in an effort to resolve eczema flares.

Food allergies are not always solely to blame for eczema, since bacteria infections, emotions and habits can also play a role. Any of these factors can lead to a troublesome cycle of itching and scratching, which can make symptoms worse.

Pediatric Allergist Dr. Neal Jain suggests finding a way to break the cycle and describes finding the source(s) of the problem this way:

“I like to equate eczema skin to a broken PC. Sometimes things just don’t work, but you can’t just hit the “escape” key, the “alt” key or “control” to reboot; you must hit all of these keys at once. Similarly, you have to do multiple things together to get the skin to work right. You have to manage the infection and bacterial toxin production, you have to get rid of the allergies if they exist, and you have to repair and restore the skin so that it functions as a barrier. You also have to figure out how to handle the emotional side of this.”

Furthermore, research suggests that a weakened skin barrier can lead to more sensitive skin. In other words, rather than a food allergy causing eczema, it may be a consequence of a child already having eczema.

Treating Eczema

While treating eczema can help relieve itching and prevent future outbreaks, there is currently no cure for eczema. Home treatments can help prevent eczema flares and minimize the negative effects of dry skin from bathing and washing.

Moisturize skin twice a day to help seal in moisture by using creams, ointments and lotions. Experimenting with multiple products to see what works best for your child is advised. Consider speaking with your child’s doctor before using certain oils or creams with these oils as some oils have been shown to have a negative effect vs beneficial effects.

Identify and avoid the triggers that make symptoms worse. Triggers may include sweat, stress, obesity, soaps, detergents, dust and pollen. Also, identify any food triggers that may be causing skin reactions.

Limit bath and shower time to no more than 15 minutes and avoid hot water.

Take a bleach bath, which is recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology (learn more here).

Use gentle, mild soap and avoid deodorant and antibacterial soaps, which can deplete natural oils and make skin dry. Also, pat skin dry gently with a soft towel and apply moisturizer while skin is still damp.

For children who are experiencing severe symptoms, doctors may prescribe an antibiotic treatment.

If your child’s symptoms get worse and if home treatments are not helping, it is advised that you seek medical attention.

How an amino acid-based formula can help

Cambrooke has developed two hypoallergenic amino acid-based formulas that offer a complete nutrition profile designed for children over one year of age. These formulas contain amino acids, which are the proteins least likely to cause an allergic response, while still ensuring your child’s nutrition needs are satisfied. EquaCare Jr. provides a nutrition and taste profile similar to other junior amino acid formula, but at a more affordable price. Essential Care Jr. is designed as a premium formula without corn, soy, or artificial ingredients. It offers a more natural taste as it is sweetened with monk fruit and contains naturally fermented vegan amino acids. Click here to learn more about how these formulas may be of benefit to your child.