Eczema in Babies
Eczema and Baby Food – is there a Connection?
- Eczema is a fairly common skin condition that affects around 10% of the world’s population at some time in their lives.
- It causes irritation and severe itching, with redness, flakiness, and sometimes little fluid-filled bumps on the skin.
- There are different forms, but the most severe – and most common – is atopic eczema, which is also known as atopic dermatitis.
- Doctors don’t know exactly what causes eczema, and the triggers that make symptoms flare up can be different from one person to another.
Is eczema affected – or caused – by what a baby eats?
Doctors are not entirely sure but there are some foods that they recommend you avoid giving to your baby, and others that sometimes seem to reduce severe eczema symptoms.
Is my baby at high risk of developing eczema?
10% to 20% of babies develop some form of eczema at some stage during their first year, and if there are close family members who have an atopic condition – such as asthma, eczema, hay fever, or a food allergy – this can increase the likelihood of your baby developing eczema:
- Your baby is at low risk if you have another child with an atopic condition
- Your baby is at moderate risk if you, or your partner, have an atopic condition
- Your baby is at high risk if both you and your partner have an atopic condition – especially if you have another child who also has the condition
However, some babies develop eczema when no family members suffer from any kind of atopic condition.
Diet and eczema in a baby… is there a link?
If a child with atopic eczema also has a food allergy,
this can make symptoms worse. Eczema is often the first sign that baby actually has a food allergy – and severe eczema in a baby is usually caused by a food allergy.
For about 30% of children, a sensitivity to certain foods triggers eczema (though it is not always the main or only trigger for about 10% of cases) – so identifying problem foods can certainly help your baby, but it may not totally ‘cure’ the eczema.
Foods that trigger eczema may also cause other typical food allergy reactions…
According to some research, children with atopic eczema possibly absorb food differently from others,so they may experience reactions to some foods. This is another good reason for delaying the introduction of solids to your baby until he or she is at least 6 months old.
Any food could be a trigger food for eczema, but some are more common triggers.
If your baby has eczema (or is at risk of developing it because of factors mentioned earlier), and you want to begin introducing solid foods, you should avoid these common trigger foods until baby is at least 1 year old. And avoid nuts and shellfish until 3 years of age.
Always speak with your baby’s doctor first when you eventually decide to introduce these foods.
If your baby has eczema, and is already having solids, your baby’s doctor can advise you about trying to identify any foods that are making the eczema worse.
PEANUT ALLERGY! – 1 in 5 babies with eczema develop a serious allergy to peanuts by the age of two.
Common trigger foods:
- Cow’s milk and dairy products (yogurt, cheese, etc.)
- Tropical fruits
- Some food additives
Your baby’s itching and scratching may get worse within 2 hours of eating the trigger food, but worsening symptoms usually don’t develop for between 6 and 24 hours.
Always consult your baby’s doctor about any foods that you suspect – it is a good idea to keep a diary of foods given and symptoms experienced.
Your baby’s doctor can introduce you to a dietician for help and advice about meeting nutrition needs if you have to remove foods from your baby’s diet.
Foods that may help…
Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fatty acids
Hydrocortisone creams are the usual treatment for eczema nowadays, but in the past, fatty acids were the main treatment offered.
Some fatty acids are known as ‘essential fatty acids’ because they are essential for the body’s healthy growth, development and function, but the body cannot make them, they must be included in the diet – and they should not be confused with saturated fats (which come from meat and dairy products).
Omega 3 and Omega 6 are essential fatty acids, and a deficiency – especially of Omega 6 – may contribute to the development of eczema.
A diet rich in Omega 3 and Omega-6 may be beneficial if your baby suffers from eczema – but always speak to your baby’s doctor about introducing anything new into your baby’s diet.
If you are breastfeeding, your baby has a source of fatty acids – how good a source depends on your own diet, so it is important to include plenty of essential fatty acids in your diet.
Some good sources of Omega 3 are:
- Soybeans (though for some soy can make eczema worse!)
- Fresh wheat germ (though for some this can trigger eczema!)
- Flax seed
- Dried beans – such as kidney beans and navy beans
- Oily fish – mackerel, tuna, sardines, herrings (recommendations for eating these vary in different areas, so speak to your doctor about your own area)
Some good sources of Omega 6 are:
- Whole grains
- Dried beans – such as kidney beans and navy beans
- Olive oil
- Corn oil
- Sunflower oil
- Safflower oil
This information presented to you acts as a guide which contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.
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