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New Research: Food Allergies May Be Triggered By Eczema

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While it has long been reported that food allergies may cause eczema in children, new research indicates that the opposite may be true (chicken vs. egg theory, anyone?). Findings of research conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology suggest that eczema may actually trigger food allergies in small children.

Researchers found that 15 percent of children with atopic dermatitis (a common form of eczema) had food allergies, and that children with the most severe cases of the disease had a higher risk of developing food allergies.

According to a February 4, 2011 press release (read it here), this topic was discussed at the 69th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology. Dermatologist Jon M. Hanifin, MD, FAAD, professor of dermatology at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, presented the findings of recent research shedding new light on the link between atopic dermatitis and food allergies.

“Considering that six to 10 percent of children have atopic dermatitis and that up to one-third of those individuals may have documented food allergy, the number of these children affected by food allergies may be significant,” said Dr. Hanifin. “In most cases, patients experience atopic dermatitis before food allergies, so it is important for parents of infants and small children affected by this skin condition to be aware of the risk of food allergies.”

In the study conducted by Dr. Hanifin and other doctors on young children between the ages of 18 months and 3 years, doctors found that 15 percent of children who had even mild cases of atopic dermatitis had developed definite food allergies. The study also found that young patients who had more severe cases of atopic dermatitis generally had a greater risk of developing food allergies.

The press release also noted that “Recent research examining the genetic basis of atopic dermatitis has shown that this chronic skin condition is likely related to a defect in the skin’s protective outer layer – known as the epidermal barrier – allowing irritants, microbes and allergens (such as food) to penetrate the skin and cause adverse reactions. Since the skin barrier in patients with atopic dermatitis is compromised and open to absorb proteins, it allows sensitization to certain foods, leading to a positive skin or blood test.”

During his presentation, Dr. Hanifin also suggested that “an unrestricted diet” may also help “tolerize babies” to potential food allergies. As an example, Dr. Hanifin pointed to Israel, where children rarely develop peanut allergies, possibly because peanut proteins are used in pacifiers sold in Israel. In contrast, US babies are usually not exposed to peanuts until they are toddlers.

This new research is extremely interesting and could spark new debate how parents treat and prevent food allergies in young children suffering from eczema. We will continue to follow the research and any developments.

Read more here.

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