Food allergies should also be considered when your child has previously been diagnosed with one of the following disorders. Symptoms among these disorders are often similar or related, so it is important to work closely with your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a common condition characterized by dry, itchy, inflamed skin. Eczema is primarily a problem with the skin itself and skin care is the main treatment. Some triggers may make eczema worse, such as certain types of weather (cold, dry in winter, or hot, humid in summer) and allergies. Food allergens do not commonly contribute to the worsening of eczema in most patients with atopic dermatitis, especially those with mild disease.
Experts believe having eczema increases the risk a child may develop food allergies and other allergic conditions later in life. About one-third of children with moderate to severe eczema have diagnosed food allergies. Likewise, about 30 to 40 percent of all people with eczema also have one or more food allergies.
Often a person will experience and treat these conditions separately. When eczema is actually triggered by a food allergy, the reaction tends to be immediate. The foods most likely to causes eczema flares are milk and egg.
An allergist will rely on a combination of medical history and diagnostic tests to determine if you or your child has food-triggered eczema. It is common for patients with eczema to have false positive testing to foods so it is important to discuss such results with your allergist to make sure you are not removing a food unnecessarily. If you are diagnosed, your allergist will recommend that you avoid the problem food.
Infants and young children at risk for food allergy and eczema may benefit from early introduction of high-risk foods. Learn more about this research.
Asthma is a respiratory condition marked by inflammation in the lung’s airways. This leads to chest pain, wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing. Symptoms may increase at night, following exercise or after exposure to an environmental allergen.
Rhinitis, also called hay fever, is an inflammation of the membranes that line the nose. Most commonly associated with allergies to pollen, dust, and/or furred animals, its symptoms include sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes.
According to a recent study, young children with food allergies are more than twice as likely to develop asthma or rhinitis before age 5, compared to those without food allergies. The risk for respiratory allergies is higher in children who are allergic to milk, egg or peanut. This is also true for children with multiple food allergies.
Chronic respiratory symptoms are not thought to be caused by food allergies. When respiratory symptoms occur during allergic reactions to foods, they occur suddenly and usually are not the only symptom. Instead, they appear alongside other symptoms affecting the skin, gastrointestinal tract and other parts of the body.
People with both asthma and food allergies are at higher risk of experiencing life-threatening anaphylaxis during a food allergy reaction. Research has similarly shown that having a food allergy is linked to having worse asthma symptoms and more hospitalizations from asthma.
Some people develop a series of allergic diseases called the Atopic March, or the Allergic March. This concept summarizes the typical sequence patients develop allergic diseases; starting first with eczema and, often, food allergy, followed by asthma and allergic rhinitis.
Researchers don’t yet know whether the Atopic March conditions merely coexist in people with overactive immune systems, or if there is an actual causal relationship among them.
This progression is most common in people who were diagnosed with eczema and food allergy in early childhood. However, the diseases don’t always develop in the same order, and not everyone will experience each one on the list.