Childhood allergic eczema is a common allergic skin disorder in children. It can affect up to 20% of young children and usually presents in the first 6 months of life. Although the term eczema is frequently used, Atopic Dermatitis is a more precise term to describe this form of allergic skin disease.
The prevalence of atopic dermatitis is increasing, similar to that of other allergic disorders such as asthma and food allergy. Although not entirely understood, allergic diseases are seen primarily in developed countries and particularly affect urban dwellers and patients with higher socio-economic status. The interaction of genetic factors with the environment and the hygiene hypothesis attempts to explain this phenomenon.
Atopic dermatitis is the first indicator of a person’s increased likelihood to develop allergies. Children with atopic dermatitis have a 50% chance of developing respiratory allergies later in life. Food allergy is also associated with atopic dermatitis. Cow milk and eggs are the two most common food allergens causing flares of atopic dermatitis, which fortunately can be outgrown.
Care for atopic dermatitis is a multipronged approach using barrier creams, topical steroids and allergen avoidance. It is important for a child who has moderate to severe atopic dermatitis to be evaluated by a qualified Allergy & Immunology specialist to determine relevant food triggers as well as to evaluate for allergic respiratory disease. Immunotherapy is an effective treatment option for patients with respiratory allergies and can improve symptoms, reduce medication use and prevent development of asthma. Currently immunotherapy is the only treatment modality that can change the natural course of allergic disease.