It’s not uncommon for babies to develop eczema as they start eating solid food, but how do you work out which food they should and should not be eating? We take a look at what foods can trigger or worsen flares in babies with eczema, and whether there are some things babies should definitely avoid!
Childhood eczema is remarkably common in babies and children - about one in five children will suffer from eczema to some degree, although most grow out of it eventually.
While eczema isn’t itself an allergic condition, it is associated with allergies; about one in every three babies and older children with eczema also have food allergies, which can trigger or worsen eczema flares and lead to itchy, scratchy skin.
That’s a lot of kids, and makes it really worth trying to find out if your child is affected by what they’re eating as well as what their skin might be touching. The younger the child, the more likely flares are to be triggered by food, so it’s a good idea to take extra care with a baby who’s already shown signs of eczema.
Where do you start? That’s a tricky question, because every baby will have different tolerances and sensitivities, so one size definitely doesn’t fit all! But if you’re weaning your little one onto solid food, it makes sense to take it slowly and carefully for the first few months. NHS guidelines on introducing new foods suggest that babies are ready to start at about six months old, and if your baby is prone to eczema, it’s not a good idea to introduce solid food much before that, as their gut won’t be mature enough.
Remember though that most babies (around two thirds) with eczema aren’t affected by what they eat, and it’s important to make sure they are getting a rounded diet, and trying all sorts of nutritious and tasty foods.
Which foods should I try?
Unless your child has a diagnosed allergy, you can follow your own family diet for weaning your baby onto solid food after six months; give them a varied assortment, and introduce foods a small amount at a time, so that any reaction is as obvious as possible.
Try them on pureed fruits, soft vegetables, rice, finger food like bread sticks and cucumber, oat porridge, soups, stews etc.
What foods should I avoid?
You don’t need to actively avoid any foods as you start weaning, unless your baby has a diagnosed allergy. However, there are certain common foods which are more likely to cause a problem than others, and these should definitely be introduced carefully, and preferably one at a time.
- Tree nuts
- Sesame seed
- Mustard seed,
- Cow’s milk
- Shellfish including molluscs
- Sulphites (found in dried fruits)
The reason why it’s not a good idea to actively avoid problem foods unless you know there’s a definite problem can be summed up by the recent research into peanuts; the LEAP study showed that avoiding peanuts in babyhood actually increased the likelihood of having a peanut allergy. Obviously peanuts should not be given whole to babies, but they can be ground up or given as peanut butter.
Not all food intolerances or allergies are immediately obvious, unfortunately; some manifest as tummy upsets, discomfort, and general eczema over days or weeks after the food has been eaten. If you’re worried that something your baby is eating is causing these symptoms, talk to your doctor and ask for a referral to a specialist.
Irritated skin around the mouth
There’s another issue with giving babies prone to eczema certain foods: they can get very sore skin around the mouth. Skin irritation from foods isn’t the same as having an allergy to it; the problem is with the weakened or faulty skin barrier rather than an actual allergic reaction, but the result can still be really painful and itchy for little ones.
Various different things can cause a rash or soreness around the mouth and cheeks, and these include foods which are:
For a personal account of having a baby with eczema, see our blog by guest writer Halima Khatun: What Foods Trigger Eczema In Babies? We also have an article Tips For Weaning A Baby With Eczema which could be helpful!
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