A new study examines the link between the skin condition known as infantile eczema and food allergies and finds that the currently proposed options for preventing food allergies show promise for the treatment of eczema in infants and children.
Allergy prevention has gone through a revolution of sorts over the past decade, where past practice commonly involved the avoidance of highly allergenic foods such as peanuts and eggs at all costs. Now, studies have shown that this approach is not effective in decreasing the prevalence of food allergies – according to the 2012 guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, “no current convincing evidence exists to recommend specific avoidance of certain foods beyond 4-6 months of age for the prevention of allergy” and that delaying the introduction of these foods may actually increase the chances of developing allergies.
And this about-face by pediatricians on highly allergenic foods has led to experimentation with new practices for treating infants considered at high risk for developing food allergies. These practices, including the use of probiotics and the early introduction of allergenic foods, have met with success. The question for the present study is whether or not this success has any impact on a condition commonly associated with food allergies in children -infantile eczema.
Eczema or atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition that often first appears in the very young and can continue to flare up at various times over the course of one’s life. Usually producing itchy, red patches and scaly, dry and sensitive skin, eczema has no known cure but can be treated with steroid creams, antibiotics and anti-itch drugs. The condition has been found to have a genetic basis and studies have shown that infants with eczema have a much higher risk for developing food allergies.
Thus, the question arises, might the new approaches to preventing food allergies in infants help with the treatment of infantile eczema? Research conducted by Susan Waserman of the Division of Clinical Immunology and Allergy at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, analyzed the recent spate of studies on allergy prevention and infantile eczema to see if these new treatment options produce positive results.
Concerning treatment with probiotics (live microorganisms which provide health benefits to the host), studies have drawn a link between the lack of exposure to a diverse range of microbes during infancy and subsequent development of allergic responses, and thus, researchers have investigated the benefits of purposefully adding to an infant’s microbial intake by giving them caplets of probiotics. How does this approach affect the prevalence of eczema? Waserman found that in one study of 454 women and their infants, those who took probiotics during the first 6 months of the infant’s life showed a reduced frequency of sensitization to food antigens and less frequent presentation with atopic eczema.
And concerning the early introduction of allergenic foods, Waserman found that one prominent study in 2015 called the Learning Early about Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study determined that early introduction of peanuts to high risk infants with severe eczema, egg allergy or both produced a significant reduction in the percentage of children who developed peanut allergies (an 86 per cent reduction in the prevalence of peanut allergy).
According to Waserman, these studies show that the promising results concerning allergy prevention can likely be extended to the treatment of infantile eczema. “As we continue to find answers to the increasing prevalence of food allergy and eczema, current evidence highlights some important advances in primary prevention of food allergy and eczema,” says Waserman.
The study was published in the journal Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology.