Eczema is a medical condition where the skin becomes red, irritated and itchy. It commonly occurs during infancy and childhood. Not surprisingly, this disorder often causes much distress to both the child and parents.
Read on to learn more about eczema from the experts – Professor Lee Bee Wah and Dr Mark Koh – and find out the influence that nutrition may have on this skin condition.
Why your child’s diet matters
The causes of eczema are not fully known and could be different for each child. In certain severe cases, food allergy may be a trigger for eczema.
Two of the most common food culprits are eggs and cow’s milk. This is more typical among younger children and those who are more seriously affected by eczema.
According to Professor Lee Bee Wah, “The presence of food allergy in infants and young children with severe eczema has been found to be as high as 33 to 66 per cent in some studies done by specialised allergy centres.”
Professor Lee added: “Children with eczema may be at higher risk of cow’s milk allergy. Cow’s milk allergy may present as an immediate allergy with constellation of signs such as skin swelling, hives, vomiting, running nose and wheeze.”
“Children with a family history of eczema or a personal or family history of other atopic conditions (such as asthma, allergic rhinitis or allergic conjunctivitis) have a higher risk of developing atopic eczema,” explained Dr Mark Koh.
That bothersome itch
Symptoms may appear by the time the child is three months of age. Areas on the face, hands, elbows, inner creases and almost any body part can dry, flake, swell and even blister and turn to lesions.
Dr Koh explained: “Poorly controlled eczema can have profound effects on a person’s quality of life, possibly leading to psycho-social problems. Itching is a major problem in patients with eczema. This can lead to poor sleep, difficulty in concentration in school, and poor academic results.”
He added: “Patients with recurrent flares or moderate-to-severe disease may have problems attending school and participating in sports and other physical activities. They may need recurrent admissions in hospital. In addition, parents of severely affected patients can face severe psychological stress, leading to poor quality of life.”
The risk of asthma
The presence of eczema in infancy is a marker of higher risk of asthma in childhood.
Professor Lee explained: “This is called the ‘atopic march’ where children who are prone to allergic problems may start off with eczema and food allergies in early infancy and then progress to wheezing, asthma and nose allergy (allergic rhinitis) in later childhood. However, not all allergic children follow this progression.”
There is currently no known cure for eczema. According to Dr Koh, “most children with eczema will improve by the time they reach school-going age, some patients may have persistent or recurrent disease till adulthood. Eczema can recur again even after a period of recovery.”
This article was adapted from a story originally published on TheAsianParent.com.