Mom Roxi Santiago’s son Joaquin has had atopic dermatitis (or eczema, as commonly called by parents) ever since he was a few months old. At 6 months old, the flare-ups were so bad that he was already prescribed oral steroids and creams.
“It was extremely difficult seeing Joaquin with red, oozing skin,” Roxi told SmartParenting.com.ph. “We noticed that he was not the typical happy baby, which was probably because of his eczema. That’s heartbreaking for a parent — not to see your baby laugh and giggle as much as the others.”
To make things worse, Joaquin’s doctor suspected he had a food allergy that was adding more damage to his skin. But because he was on medication, allergy tests couldn’t be done.
“The most common allergy test is the patch test where you place different allergens on the skin. After one to three days, you check which of the allergens have reacted,” explained Dr. Joanne B. Gonzalez, a fellow of the Philippine Dermatological Society and the American Academy of Dermatology who holds a clinic at Derma 360° in Makati.
“If the patient is taking antihistamine or steroids, you won’t get the right reaction. The medication will prevent it, so you won’t know which one is really allergenic to the patient and which ones aren’t,” Dr. Gonzalez added.
Only when Joaquin’s eczema cleared up could his parents have him tested for allergies. “We did food allergen elimination and saw how wheat, eggs, and dairy affected his skin. For a while, he was also allergic to chicken,” Roxi said.
Though doctors differ in their professional opinion on the role of food and diet in the treatment and management of atopic dermatitis, it is known that a lot of children who have the skin condition also have allergies to certain types of food.
Up to a third of children with eczema have a documented food allergy, said dermatologist Dr. Jon M. Hanifin, a recognized expert in atopic dermatitis and member of the American Academy of Dermatology. “In most cases, patients experience atopic dermatitis before food allergies, so it is important for parents of infants and small children affected by this skin condition to be aware of the risk of food allergies.”
Unfortunately, as shown in mom Roxi and her son’s case, there are limitations to the skin and patch tests for allergies.
“It is limited to the use of some allergenic extracts. It is limited to the available skin area, which is a problem especially for infants and children. You cannot have it if you have significant skin rashes, and it is not appropriate when you are on steroids and antihistamines,” explained Dr. Agnes Famero, a physician and functional medicine practitioner at LifeScience Center for Health & Wellness.
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