- Childhood eczema is also known as atopic dermatitis. 10% of children under the age of 18 are diagnosed with eczema and most start developing symptoms by 5 years of age.
- Children with eczema are at a higher risk for developing other “atopic” conditions like asthma and hay fever, this is a process referred to as the atopic march. Often eczema begins first, then hay fever, then asthma. Whether food allergies are part of the atopic march Is still unclear.
- We do know that food allergies are more common in children who have eczema as an infant or have severe eczema. But just because your child has eczema does not mean that they will have food allergies.
- However, the incidence of peanut allergies is increasing over time from 0.4% in 1997 to 1% now. We don’t fully understand why this is happening, but there are some theories:
- Our culture of keeping children “clean”
- Our food processing techniques which create more allergenic peanut clumps
- Our culture of teaching families to completely avoid allergenic foods in infants, like peanuts.
You read that right, avoiding certain foods can actually INCREASE your child’s risk of developing food allergies.
- What do food allergies look like? If your child has eczema, their eczema may flare. Or they may develop hives, become itchy, have facial swelling or GI symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach cramps. In extreme cases, they may have wheezing or difficulty breathing. All of these typically occur within minutes to hours of eating the food and will happen consistently every time they eat this food.
- So, what do we recommend? If your child has mild eczema then introduce them to allergenic foods at 6 months to decrease their risk of developing food allergies (this includes milk, eggs, soy, and peanuts). If your child has severe eczema, see an allergist before introducing them to these foods, they may recommend allergy testing.
- As a mom of a three year old son, I know introducing these allergens safely at a young age can be challenging. Peanuts aren’t exactly a baby safe food. That’s why I love Puffworks baby as a mom and as a dermatologist. Puffworks baby puffs are dissolvable so they are a safe snack option for your little one. It also contains peanut protein, which is what’s responsible for creating food allergies. So you can safely introduce peanuts into your little ones’ diets, reducing their risk of life threatening food allergies.
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