The most common question I get asked by parents is what foods should I take out of my child’s diet to help their eczema? The answer is simple – None.
Food may trigger Eczema
Whilst it is true that eczema may be triggered by certain foods it is important to remember that eczema is a very individual condition and each child is different.
Children with eczema have hypersensitive skin which reacts to many different environmental conditions, one of which may be various foods. The pattern of allergic reactions from one child to another is not consistent and may alter as the child gets older.
Exclusion diets may be harmful
It is therefore generally accepted that children with eczema should not be automatically put on a special diet and in fact exclusion diets can prove more harmful than helpful as a child needs a balanced diet to grow and remain healthy.
Diets should be reserved for children displaying severe eczema symptoms that are non-responsive to the standard treatment regime and for children who have a clear history of food intolerance. These diets should only ever be under the strict guidance of a dietician and for a trial period only to ensure the child is not at risk of nutritional deficiency.
The majority of children with eczema will be able to tolerate a normal diet however when weaning a baby each item of food should be introduced one at a time, in small quantities and gradually increased, slowly varying the diet. The odd food may need to be avoided if it causes a problem.
Don’t forget Environmental Factors
When trying to determine the triggers of your child’s eczema it is important to look beyond the foods they eat to the environment they live in. Some of the more common environmental allergens include grass pollens, house dust mite, dander from cats and dogs, and feathers.
Some day to day factors that should be taken into consideration when caring for a child with eczema include:
• Avoid synthetic and woolen fabrics. Dress children in cotton clothing.
• Use non-biological detergents and fabric conditioners and always double rinse to remove detergent residue.
• Avoid cigarette smoke in enclosed spaces as it will irritate the skin.
• Avoid cats and dogs in the house as the dander they leave behind almost always irritates the skin of children with eczema.
• Minimize dust mite in the house by vacuuming regularly, damp dusting, avoiding carpet where possible and washing furry toys regularly.
• Most children with eczema will react to grass pollen so keep them away from freshly cut grass and out of the garden when the lawn is being mown. Keep windows shut on windy days especially in summer.
Of course if you determine certain foods that do definitely trigger your child’s eczema you should avoid them in their diet. If there are several foods triggering the eczema or a whole food group causing a problem professional guidance is required to ensure a safe and balanced diet.