Baby Eczema and Food Allergies: A Comprehensive Guide
Baby Eczema and Food Allergies
Babies can experience various health challenges, including skin conditions and food allergies. In particular, one common skin condition that affects infants is baby eczema. This is also known as infantile eczema or atopic dermatitis. This skin condition often goes hand-in-hand with food allergies, making it important for parents and caregivers to understand the connection between the two.
In this blog post, we will explore the relationship between baby eczema and food allergies, discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatment options, and provide tips for managing these conditions effectively.
Understanding Baby Eczema
Baby eczema is a chronic and inflammatory skin condition that affects approximately 10-20% of infants. Moreover, it typically manifests as red, itchy, and inflamed patches of skin.
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These patches can appear anywhere on the body but are most commonly found on the face, scalp, cheeks, and the folds of the elbows and knees. Baby eczema can be uncomfortable and distressing for both the baby and parents, but with proper care and management, it can be controlled.
- Dry, itchy skin
- Red or inflamed patches
- Crusting or oozing of affected areas
- Swelling and tenderness
- Thickened or scaly skin
- Restlessness or irritability (due to discomfort)
Understanding Food Allergies in Infants
Food allergies occur when the immune system mistakenly identifies a specific food as harmful and triggers an allergic reaction. While food allergies can develop at any age, they are increasingly common in infants and young children. For instance, common allergenic foods include cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, sesame, and shellfish. It’s important to note that not all babies with eczema have food allergies, but there is a significant link between the two.
The Connection Between Baby Eczema and Food Allergies
The relationship between baby eczema and food allergies is complex and not fully understood. However, research suggests that there is a strong link between the two. We know that foods do NOT cause eczema (myth busted!), but more likely eczema causes food allergies. Here’s how eczema and food allergies are interconnected:
- Genetic Predisposition: Babies with a family history of eczema, allergies, or asthma are more likely to develop eczema and food allergies.
- Skin Barrier: Babies with eczema often have a compromised skin barrier, making it easier for allergens to penetrate the skin and trigger allergic reactions. So, that’s why it’s more important than ever to protect it!
- Immune System: An overactive immune response in infants with eczema may increase the likelihood of developing food allergies.
- Atopic March: “Atopic March” is the medical term used to explain the natural progression of an allergic disease. Some infants follow a pattern known as the “allergic march,” where they develop eczema as their first symptom, followed by food allergies and later respiratory allergies like asthma.
Nurturing Baby Eczema
If your baby has eczema, here are a few simple things you can do to keep the eczema at bay. Here’s a list of our top tips for nurturing your baby with eczema:
- Keep Nails Short: We know, this is easier said than done. Nails are oftentimes overlooked, but it’s important to trim those nails to avoid scratching and irritating an area prone to eczema.
- Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisture! Babies with eczema have high levels of water loss through the skin called transepidermal. Therefore, babies can lose water a lot quicker than those without eczema. Stay ahead of the moisture game! Moisture at every diaper change (or set a moisturizer alarm every day!).
- Fast Baths: Although baths are great for the skin to wash off any bacteria and/or germs, it can be extremely drying for the skin. In other words, take quick baths and then pat dry to avoid irritating the skin. Lastly, follow up with a good moisturizer like Bebaby to lock moisture in.
- Try to Avoid Sweating: Sweating can be itchy. Therefore, try to keep your baby dry and cool using comfortable, soft, and breathable clothing.
Managing Baby Eczema and Food Allergies
Eczema can be hard to manage, especially if your baby is experiencing eczema flares. Even if your baby has more good days than challenging days, it may be time to look into a plan to hopefully prevent them. Here are a few tips to help manage baby eczema:
- Consult a Pediatrician or Allergist: If you suspect your baby has eczema or food allergies, consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
- Allergy Testing: Allergy testing may be recommended to identify specific food allergens. For instance, skin prick tests and blood tests (such as IgE testing) are commonly used methods.
- Avoiding Allergenic Foods: If food allergies are confirmed, work with your healthcare provider to develop a safe diet plan for your baby. This may involve avoiding specific allergenic foods.
- Skin Care: Use gentle, fragrance - free, and hypoallergenic skincare products to maintain your baby’s skin barrier. So, keep the skin moisturized to reduce eczema flare - ups. We love Bebaby moisturizer! It's fragrance-free and thick to lock in moisture.
- Medications: Your healthcare provider may prescribe topical corticosteroids or other medications to manage eczema symptoms.
- Allergy Management: In cases of severe food allergies, carrying an epinephrine auto injector may be necessary for emergency situations.
- Monitor and Record: Keep a journal of your baby’s symptoms, triggers, and food intake to help identify patterns and manage their condition effectively.
How to Introduce Other Allergens Safely
New research suggests introducing allergens early and often at the time of starting solids. However, if you have confirmed food allergies, you’ll want to introduce allergens a little differently. Here are a few helpful tips to make the introduction easier:
- Consult with your Pediatrician. Speak with your baby’s pediatrician for personalized guidance based on your baby’s health and family history.
- Introduce Allergens Early and Often. New research shows introducing allergens early (between 4-6 months) and often (several exposures of each allergen per week) may help prevent food allergies. However, if your baby has confirmed allergens, they should avoid those specific allergens completely.
- Serve first at home or Doctor's Office. Introducing a new allergen? Baby’s first known allergenic food should be given at home or in a doctor’s office.
- Start with single ingredients. Always start with single ingredients to make it easier to identify any potential allergic reactions (and the culprit!).
- Spoon Feeding. Try spoon feeding purees with the allergen! Finger foods are great for motor development skills, but can often end up on the floor or in their hair! With allergen introduction, it’s important that your baby actually consumes the food (allergen) to get the dosage needed for exposure.
- Dosage Matters. Some dosages have been determined by Landmark studies such as peanut protein. For example, 2g of peanut protein, 3 times per week is recommended by the Leap study to help prevent peanut allergies by up to 80%.
As always, when introducing a new, allergenic food, watch your baby closely for any signs of an allergic reaction. For instance, common symptoms include hives, facial swelling, vomiting, diarrhea, or difficulty breathing. If you suspect an allergic reaction, it is important to stop feeding them that particular food and seek immediate medical attention.
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Short on time?
Square Baby can help. Square Baby offers an allergen Introduction menu that makes it easy to introduce allergens to your little one at the right dosage. Above all, consistent exposure will help your baby get used to the new food and maintain tolerance. Explore our menu here.
Adding Allergens to Meals
If your baby does not have a confirmed allergy, it’s important to continually feed your baby allergens to maintain tolerance. Some allergens are easier to make than others that don’t require a ton of preparation. Here are a few easy tips to start adding allergens to your baby’s meals today:
- Add a spoonful of yogurt (allergen: milk) to a fruit, veggie, oatmeal puree.
- Add scrambled eggs to a veggie hash. Or serve as a perfect finger food!
- Add peanut butter (or another nut butter) to mashed banana. Thin as desired with yogurt, water, or breastmilk/formula.
Featuring Square Baby's 4 Adorable Characters for "Allergy Awareness Week." Watch the YouTube Videos here.
Baby eczema and food allergies can be challenging for both infants and parents. Understanding the relationship between these two conditions and working closely with healthcare professionals is crucial for effective management.
With the right care, many babies with eczema and food allergies can lead healthy, happy lives. Remember, every child is unique, so a tailored approach to diagnosis and treatment is essential!
Don't hesitate to reach out with questions - we're happy to help!
~Katie & Kendall, Cofounders and Chief Mamas
Medically Reviewed by:
Dr. Ratika Gupta is a board-certified allergist and founder of Bebaby. She created Bebaby, a moisturizing cream that protects the skin barrier after treating hundreds of pediatric patients for their skin conditions (ie eczema) and food allergies.
As a physician, she wanted to educate her patients on how to decrease food allergies. And, it starts with the skin barrier. That is why she created Bebaby.
New research shows the importance of keeping the skin barrier healthy which may help prevent food allergies, eczema, hay fever and asthma. Learn more about Bebaby by visiting www.thebebaby.com. Use code "FP0NGGM4J2FX" for 20% off!
Please note: This blog post is for information purposes only and shouldn’t be used as personal, health, nutritional, or medical advice. Always consult with your pediatrician before making any decisions about your child's health or readiness for various foods.
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