Do certain foods cause eczema flares?


Amy Paller, MD, a dermatologist, explains why it’s important to talk with your child’s dermatologist if you feel that certain foods cause your child’s eczema to flare.

Do certain foods cause eczema flares?

It is natural for any parent to want to find a trigger to the eczema, and eliminate it, and expect that everything will be much better.

But, unfortunately, in the vast majority of our patients with eczema, it’s very difficult to identify triggers.  Particularly in those younger children, the question that is often asked is, “Is it a food that’s causing the eczema?”

Unfortunately, we don’t have great tests to try to determine if a food — or perhaps later in life — if other environmental agents like dust are triggering the eczema.

In fact, even with very specific IGE testing for food allergies, we find many children showing multiple food allergies that end up being irrelevant to the eczema. They may be relevant to gastrointestinal manifestations of allergy. They may be relevant to the development of hives or other allergic manifestations. But they’re not relevant to eczema in the majority of cases.

In fact, at best they serve as a guide. If you have negative testing, that usually means that you’re not going to be having a problem with a particular food that triggers the eczema. If they are positive, however, and they often are, then it really becomes a matter of doing challenge testing and working very closely with a pediatric allergist in trying to determine whether a specific food or food group may be the trigger.

Overall, it’s important to recognize that we [dermatologists] don’t even think about foods as a trigger unless we have a child who is quite severe and not responding well to topical [applied to the skin] agents alone or we have a situation where a parent has clearly observed that a particular food is a trigger for that eczema.

The idea of routinely putting children on diets that perhaps eliminate milk-based products or totally getting rid of these formulas and substituting with something that is an elemental type of diet should not be done routinely. Again, it should be reserved for that small percentage of children who have more severe disease that is not easily responsive.

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