Children With Eczema Often Have Food Allergies


2010-03-02 10:57

Infants and children with atopic dermatitis, more commonly known as eczema, are at high risk for having food allergy or food sensitivity. The most commonly related to skin disorders are milk and egg allergy. British researchers now report a connection between eczema and peanut and nut allergies.

Eczema is an auto-immune response to an allergen that appears to be hereditary. It often appears first on the face and, as it worsens, spreads to the arms, legs and trunk of the body. Eczema affects about 10% of all children and typically begins in infancy, during the first six weeks of life. In addition to allergy to food, eczema can also be triggered by external reactions to irritants such as pollen and house dust mites.

The study involved 640 infants between the ages of 4 and 11 months who were diagnosed with eczema. The researchers measured blood levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE), an immune system antibody produced in response to the allergen. The results showed that between 14 and 23% of the children were allergic to nuts, including peanuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, and sesame. 31% were allergic to cow’s milk and 16% were allergic to more than four foods.

The findings of the study were presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Dr. Graham Roberts MD, a pediatric allergist at King’s College London, told WebMD, “We were shocked to find out that even in the first year of life, over 20% of infants with eczema already were sensitized [showed susceptibility] to peanut allergy.”

A previous Italian study of 5500 newborns with a family history of allergy found that 85% had elevated IgE levels in umbilical cord blood, indicating that the sensitivity to certain foods was present at birth. Breastfeeding mothers were encouraged to avoid certain foods, such as nuts, seafood, and milk to prevent allergic reactions in the infants.

New research is finding that small doses of food allergens given under strict conditions may desensitize children, allowing them to enjoy more foods they were previously unable to enjoy.