There has been a dramatic rise in the incidence of allergic disease,
including eczema, among young children over the last few decades, but the
reasons for this remain largely unknown.
While it is clear that genetic predisposition plays a big part in risk, the
impact of allergic foods and the timing of food introduction remain less well
Food allergies contribute to about a third of moderate to severe eczema
cases in children," pediatric allergist David Fleischer, MD, of National Jewish
Medical and Research Center, tells WebMD.
Allergic foods, including dairy, eggs, nuts, and seafood have been linked to
the development or trigger of eczema and other allergic diseases in some
studies. But others suggest a protective benefit for some of these foods.
In their latest investigation, Alm and colleagues examined dietary and
allergy data from almost 5,000 children enrolled in the Swedish health
By the time they reached age 6 months, 14% of the infants had developed
eczema. By their first birthdays, 21% had previous or current eczema.
While early fish consumption was found to protect against eczema, it did not
seem to matter if the fish the young children ate contained large amounts of
omega-3 fatty acids.
It has been suggested that omega-3 is protective against allergic disease,
but several recent studies have failed to show this, Alm says.
"There seems to be something special in fish that helps protect against
eczema, but we can't say what that is," he says.
Breastfeeding Not Protective
Among the other findings from the study, published online in the journal
Archives of Disease in Childhood:
No link was seen between when dairy products were introduced into the diet and eczema risk.
Having a furry pet in the home had no impact on risk.
breastfeeding was found to have no significant impact on eczema risk during
the first year of life.