Eczema & Food Allergy - Fast Facts

Eczema & Food Allergy - Fast Facts

Fast facts on eczema and food allergy - from clinical immunology and allergy specialists in Australia and New Zealand.


Fast facts

Eczema - a health condition that affects the skin

Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a long-lasting (chronic) health condition that affects the skin. It causes redness, itching and sometimes infections. People with eczema often have other allergic conditions, including food allergy, but food allergy does not cause eczema.

Common triggers of eczema flares

When eczema gets worse, it is called an eczema flare. Common triggers of eczema flares include dry climate, overheating, exposure to irritants (such as sand or dirt), scratching, allergens (such as dust mite) and bacterial skin infections.

Managing eczema 

You can manage eczema by maintaining, protecting and treating skin. Treatments may include:

  • putting moisturiser on at least twice a day (avoiding those that contain food products)
  • using a non-soap based wash or oil in the bath or shower
  • avoiding soap and washes that produce bubbles or foam, which damage and dry out the skin
  • avoiding known triggers (including foods if confirmed in rare cases) and irritants
  • using anti-inflammatory creams and ointments, such as topical steroids
  • treating bacterial skin infections with antibiotics, or using bleach baths (to prevent infection) if infections are frequent
  • using medicines to reduce inflammation, if prescribed for severe eczema

Food allergy is more common in babies with eczema and a family history of allergy

Around 30% of babies in these groups develop food allergy compared to only 10% in the general population. There is some evidence that managing eczema well during infancy may reduce the chance of a baby developing food allergy.

When a child has eczema and food allergy, food allergy may trigger eczema, but is not the cause of their eczema

Most food allergy causes symptoms (including hives, vomiting and irritability) within 30 minutes of eating. Food allergy only occasionally results in delayed eczema flare ups.

Results of skin tests or blood tests for food allergy do not predict food(s) that are making the eczema worse

In New Zealand, a specialist doctor or nurse with training in allergy should recommend and interpret any food allergy tests that your child has.

Only try a 'food exclusion diet' if your child's eczema does not improve with treatment, and always with medical supervision

Before considering a 'food exclusion diet', follow the steps in 'Managing eczema well' above.

Confirming that food allergy is causing delayed eczema only needs short-term food exclusion. A health professional (doctor or nurse) with allergy training should always supervise food exclusion diets. If the specialist recommends continuing food exclusion longer term, children should also see a paediatric dietitian with specialised knowledge of food allergies.

Taking foods out of your child's diet without using the right substitutes (for good nutrition) can cause malnutrition and poor growth

Also, if your child has been regularly eating a food without signs of allergy, taking that food out of their diet can result in them developing a new allergy to that food.

See more KidsHealth content on eczema

Check out KidsHealth's section on eczema

Screenshot of KidsHealth website eczema section


Adapted for New Zealand from ASCIA fast facts - eczema and food allergy.

This content has been developed and approved by the Clinical Reference Group for the Paediatric Society NZ's Child and Youth Eczema Clinical Network, Te Rōpū Kiripai Hapori.

This page last reviewed 07 December 2023.

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