Could Your Child’s Eczema Be a Sign of Food Allergies?

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Have you noticed signs of atopic dermatitis in your child? Or maybe your child has received a diagnosis of this condition, which is also referred to as allergic eczema or atopic eczema. This is an inflammatory condition with skin-related symptoms that include itchy, dry skin, red patches and bumps. It’s common in children, yet it can continue into adulthood with periods of time when it clears up.

What does this have to do with food allergies? Many children have both food allergies and atopic dermatitis. Also, it’s possible that eczema could indicate a risk of food allergies in children.

Co-occurring Eczema and Food Allergies

Of the 20 percent of children who have atopic dermatitis, 30 percent have food allergies as well. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, it’s most common for young children with eczema to have allergies to eggs, peanuts or milk.

Eczema tends to show itself in early childhood, with the majority having symptoms by the time they’re five. This condition can be part of a phenomenon known as the “atopic march” where you develop eczema early on, then develop a food allergy and then go on to develop hay fever and asthma.  

Research Found a Connection

Current research from this year found a similarity in the skin of the children who have both conditions. This research was published in Science Translational Medicine. Researchers found differences at the structural and molecular levels in the skin of the children with both conditions compared to the children with only atopic dermatitis.

These differences were found in the top layers of the healthy-looking skin surrounding the eczema lesions, while the skin rashes from eczema were the same in both groups. The researchers believe that learning more about these differences could help medical professionals identify a risk of food allergy in children that haven’t yet been diagnosed.

Also, they want to look into whether early intervention targeting the skin could potentially help prevent the onset of food allergy. The hypothesis is that the dysfunctional skin barrier from atopic dermatitis could cause food allergens to have an easier time reaching immune cells. This process could then start the onset of food allergies.  

The Potential of False Positive Allergy Results

This is a complicated topic, because there are a large number of food allergy tests that turn up with a false positive result in children with eczema. Due to the misdiagnosis, these children end up avoiding foods when they don’t actually need to. This is why health professionals do not recommend food allergy testing for every child with eczema.

Instead, it’s possible that some children have Filaggrin deficiency, a protein deficiency, which has been associated with eczema. Also, there are different types of eczema, which are not all related to food allergies.

However, the new research on food allergies and eczema discussed above may provide a new way to identify which children with eczema are at risk of food allergy. If so, this discovery could potentially prevent misdiagnosis in some children while better helping those children who are at risk.

If your young child has atopic dermatitis, it’s possible they’re at risk for food allergies. In time, this new research may make it easier to determine which children are at risk. In the meantime, ask your doctor whether it’s smart to have your child tested for food allergies and pay attention to whether your child experiences reactions to eating certain foods.