Is Eczema in Kids Linked to Allergies and Asthma?

The eczema rash on your child's skin can sometimes be associated with allergies, hay fever, and asthma. There are things you can do to soothe the itch and maybe cut the chance of having allergies.

The Connection

Doctors used to think eczema was just a sign of an allergic reaction -- your body overreacting to a harmless allergen, like pollen or dander.

Now, most agree that eczema is actually a problem with the outer layer of your skin. Instead of working as a barrier, your skin is "leaky" and lets in germs, irritants, or allergens.

Most experts don’t believe that eczema is purely allergic. Still, they know it's clearly connected to allergic conditions like food allergies, hay fever, and asthma.

  • Up to 80% of kids with eczema get hay fever or asthma later in childhood.
  • Thirty-five percent of adults with asthma or nasal allergies had eczema when they were kids.
  • If a mom has allergies, there's almost a 1 in 3 chance her baby will have eczema.
  • Thirty-seven percent of kids with moderate to severe eczema also have food allergies.

 

Stop the Allergic March

For some kids, eczema and allergies come in a specific order as they get older. It starts with eczema, then food allergies, asthma, then hay fever.

It's called the allergic march.

But just because your child has eczema doesn't mean she’ll get the above things. It just means there's a higher risk of it happening.

What makes the chances go up?

When it starts. Kids who get eczema at a young age may be more likely to have allergies or asthma later.

How severe it is. Children with worse eczema symptoms may have higher odds of getting allergies or asthma.

There are some things you can do that might lower your child's chances of worsening eczema, asthma, or allergies. The evidence isn't clear, so talk to your doctor or your pediatrician. Depending on the situation, he might recommend:

Breastfeeding. There's some evidence that doing this for the first 6 to 12 months of your child’s life may lower her chance of having allergies or asthma later.

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Diet changes. If your baby has a high risk of allergies, some doctors recommend changes in diet. You might hold off on solid foods until your baby is at least 6 months old.

Treating your child's eczema is key, too.

To keep your child's eczema under control:

Get allergy testing. If you can pin the problem on a specific thing, you can figure out ways to avoid it.

Use a moisturizer. Go for thick creams and ointments that stop skin from drying out.

Keep fingernails short. Your child will do less damage to their skin when they scratch.

Avoid irritants. Always use unscented soap and laundry detergent. Stay away from cigarette smoke, too.

Watch for problems. If your child's eczema seems to be getting worse, or he develops allergy symptoms like congestion or a runny nose, see a doctor. The sooner you get treatment, the better.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on 4/, 017

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology: "Skin Allergy Overview."

American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology: "Eczema in Children."

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: "Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)," "Food Allergies."

Demehri, S. PLOS Biology, May 19, 2009.

Zheng, T. Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology Research, February 2011.

Van Bever, H. WAO Journal, April 15, 2008.

University of Iowa Children's Hospital: "Common Additional Questions."

UpToDate: "Epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis of atopic dermatitis (eczema)," "Patient information: Atopic dermatitis (eczema) (Beyond the Basics)," "Role of allergy in atopic dermatitis (eczema)."

World Allergy Organization: "Food Allergy."

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