- Eczema is a skin condition that causes redness and itching. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.
- There are different types of eczema. The most common is “atopic dermatitis”. Many people with food allergies have atopic dermatitis.
What is Eczema?
Eczema is a skin disorder that causes itchiness and rash. There are different types of eczema. The most common is “atopic dermatitis”. Flare-ups can be triggered by environmental factors, or may be unknown. Severity depends on the individual. Some people may have mild itchiness and a few dry patches. Others, particularly young children, may have eczema covering much of the body.
There is currently no cure for eczema. Therapy is focused on preventing flare-ups, which can be caused by certain soaps, fabrics and skin products, as well as substances such as chlorine. Becoming overheated, or having moisture trapped between clothing and the skin (such as a wet bathing suit) can also be triggers for a flare-up.
How is it Treated?
Eczema is controlled using a combination of therapies, depending on the severity of symptoms. Avoiding triggers is important (for example, dye-sensitive individuals wash their clothes with dye-free detergent). Moisturizing the skin and controlling itchiness are essential for managing eczema. In severe cases where open sores lead to infection, antibiotics are used to clear the infection.
People with atopic dermatitis often see an allergist to discuss and monitor their eczema management.
Eczema and Food Allergies
The most common form of eczema is atopic eczema or atopic dermatitis. The term “atopy” refers to having IgE-mediated reactions, including atopic eczema, asthma, allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and food allergy. Many people with food allergies also have atopic eczema.
Sometimes, eczema is the first sign of atopy, followed by food allergic reactions and asthma. This is referred to as “the allergic march”. A child with eczema and food allergies may be closely watched for signs of asthma as he or she grows, since the three conditions often (but not always) co-exist.
Young children often outgrow atopic dermatitis, but it can persist even or re-emerge in adulthood. As with food allergy and asthma, researchers are working hard to find a cure.
Support for Caregivers
It can be extremely challenging for parents to manage eczema in a baby or a young child. In fact, a recent study found that “moderate to severe childhood eczema should be regarded as a significant illness in which maternal stress is equivalent to that associated with the care of children with severe developmental and physical problems.”1
Support groups and services exist in many communities, and your allergist can direct you to these resources.