Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a common skin condition that affects millions of children worldwide. While it primarily manifests as red, itchy, and inflamed skin, its underlying causes can be complex and multifaceted. Recent research has shed light on the strong connection between eczema and allergies, suggesting that kids with eczema may benefit from further allergy tests to manage their condition effectively.
While atopic dermatitis is common and usually develops by age five, allergic contact dermatitis has similar symptoms and can be triggered by a range of substances. In general, eczema is a group of medical conditions causing inflamed, irritated and itchy skin.
In the study, children with atopic dermatitis were more likely to test positive for allergies in patch testing. The findings were published Sept. 26 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
“When a dermatologist sees a child who looks like they have eczema, we usually think that it’s atopic dermatitis because nearly 1 in 5 children develop it,” said senior study author Dr. JiaDe (Jeff) Yu, an assistant professor of adult and pediatric dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“Sometimes these kids could have allergic contact dermatitis, but the only way to tell is through patch testing, which is designed to identify substances that may be irritating your skin,” he said in a journal news release.
The Importance of Allergy Testing
Allergy testing can be a valuable tool for children with eczema and their healthcare providers. Here’s why:
- Identification of Triggers: Allergy tests can help pinpoint specific allergens that may be triggering or exacerbating a child’s eczema. Knowing these triggers allows for targeted avoidance strategies.
- Customized Treatment Plans: Armed with knowledge about a child’s specific allergies, healthcare providers can develop customized treatment plans. This may include allergen avoidance measures, dietary changes, or allergy shots (immunotherapy) to desensitize the immune system.
- Improved Symptom Management: By addressing underlying allergies, it may be possible to reduce the severity and frequency of eczema flare-ups. This can greatly improve a child’s quality of life.
Common Allergens in Eczema
- Food Allergies: Certain foods can trigger or worsen eczema symptoms in some children. Common food allergens associated with eczema include cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, and fish.
- Environmental Allergens: Allergens such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander, and mold can exacerbate eczema symptoms, especially when children with eczema are exposed to them.
- Irritants: Substances like harsh soaps, fragrances, and certain fabrics can irritate sensitive skin and worsen eczema symptoms.
- Contact Allergens: Some children may also have contact allergies to certain substances like nickel or latex, which can worsen their eczema when their skin comes into contact with these allergens.
The Allergy-Eczema Connection
Research has established a strong link between eczema and allergies, particularly food allergies, asthma, and allergic rhinitis (hay fever). Many children with eczema also suffer from one or more of these conditions, collectively known as atopic diseases. This shared connection suggests that there may be common underlying factors at play.
Patient Liz Schoeben knows the importance of testing for this allergic-type eczema.
Schoeben has had atopic dermatitis since she was nine and now knows she also has the allergic contact dermatitis.
“I remember having it in elementary school off and on,” the mother of three said in the release. “Years later when I was 47, it became much more severe and spread to my legs and eventually to my face.”
Soon, Schoeben learned through patch testing that in addition to having atopic dermatitis she was allergic to
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