Welcome to the diet and allergy section!
This section will look at:
- Would avoiding particular foods help my eczema?
- How do I know if I have a food allergy?
- Should I have an allergy test?
- What should I do if I think I have a food allergy?
Would avoiding particular foods help my eczema?
A healthy well balanced diet is important for keeping your skin and body healthy. The usual advice about what food to eat as part of a healthy diet is the same for people with eczema.
Many people with eczema worry that they should avoid certain foods. But usually people find that this doesn’t make a difference. Things, such as soap, are more likely to make your eczema worse
One of my friends has eczema and she told me to cut out dairy. She did it and said that it had helped her eczema. I tried to cut it out for about 6 weeks but it made no difference at all to my eczema. It wasn’t much fun to do either
A small number of people with eczema can have a reaction to certain foods. There are two types of food reactions:
1. A food allergy
A food allergy happens when your body reacts straight away to certain foods you have eaten. You may start to wheeze, get tummy ache, or throw up. Your face could swell up or you could get lumps (hives) on your skin. Your eczema may also flare up during or soon after a reaction.
Food allergies are slightly more common in people with eczema, but are not the cause of eczema in most cases. It is more likely that eczema in babies makes them more likely to have food allergy later, not the other way around.
2. Delayed reactions to food that may make your eczema worse
A small number of people with eczema find that certain foods can make their eczema worse. This is a delayed type of food allergy. Reactions happen 1-2 days after you have eaten the food, instead of straight away. These reactions are caused by a different part of the body’s immune system than food allergies. It is more difficult to test for delayed reactions.
The next few pages will give you advice on how you can tell whether you have a food allergy or if certain foods make your eczema worse.
Click on a button below to find out if you might have one of the two types of reaction:
Do I have a delayed reaction to food that makes my eczema worse?
You may have a delayed reaction to certain foods if:
- Your eczema always gets worse 2 days after eating these foods. Your eczema does not get better after using flare control creams and moisturising creams regularly.
- You may want to try using moisturising creams more than 4 times each day and flare control creams once a day. If your eczema is not getting better after doing this for 2 weeks, then it is worth looking into delayed reaction to foods.
Delayed reactions are unlikely to make your eczema worse if:
- Your eczema started after you were 2 years old
- Your eczema is not too bad or affects only small areas of the body
Do I have a food allergy?
You may have a food allergy if:
- You wheeze or have difficulty breathing straight after eating a certain food. You may also get tingling in the mouth or back of the throat, swollen lips or tongue, be sick, or pass out. If you get any of these problems, you must call for an ambulance straight away to get urgent medical advice.
- You have itchy and swollen patches and a nettle sting like rash straight after eating or touching a certain food. If this happens, you should not eat this food until you have talked to your doctor about it.
You should visit your doctor if you think you have a food allergy.
What foods might I react to?
Peanuts, milk and eggs are the most common foods that cause reactions.
Other foods that can cause an allergy include wheat, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, soya, lentils and some fruits.
Should I have an allergy test?
Allergy tests are not very good at finding out what is making eczema worse
This is because allergy tests only work well for food allergies that show up straight away. They are not usually helpful for delayed reactions to foods that happen with some people with eczema.
Allergy testing from the Internet or High Street is not accurate.
What should I do if I think I have a food allergy or a delayed reaction to food?
Most people can control their eczema by using enough moisturising and flare control creams. But, you should see your doctor if you think you have a food allergy.
You may want to try the food challenge if you think you have a delayed reaction where your eczema gets worse 1-2 days after eating certain foods.
What other foods might affect my eczema?
Some foods can make eczema worse because they have things in them that irritate the skin, rather than causing an allergic reaction. For example, strawberries, citrus fruits (e.g. oranges), and tomatoes can cause an eczema flare-up on the face if they touch your skin, or if the saliva stays on the skin.
Putting moisturising creams on the face and neck before and after eating these foods can help with this.
Some people find that alcohol can make their eczema worse. This is because alcohol opens up the small veins in your skin that carry your blood, which can make you itch more.
Click on the names below to read stories from other people with eczema:
I was going mad with all the different suggestions for things to cut out. Some days my eczema was fine and then it was worse again.
Sometimes I thought I could see a pattern of what was setting my skin off and then I would flare-up and I couldn’t find a reason. So I started to keep a food diary and found that there really was no pattern with what I was eating.
Now I think it is mostly forgetting to put on my moisturiser every day which makes it flare up.
Last year during exam time, my eczema got really bad. I read online that you should cut out dairy as it can make your eczema worse. So I decided to completely cut out dairy – cheese, milk, eggs, everything! I did this for 4 weeks and I found my eczema got better. I carried on not eating dairy, but it was becoming more and more difficult to keep up!
A month later, I noticed my eczema was back again, as bad as it was before. I had an allergy test at my doctors, but this didn’t find anything that I was allergic to. My doctor and I figured out certain times when my eczema got worse. It was mainly in the winter or during exam time. Now I know what makes my eczema worse, I just make sure I put on lots more moisturising creams during these times. Rather than cut out different foods, I just try to eat healthy and drink plenty of water.
Should I take food supplements?
Food supplements are tablets, liquids or powders that contain nutrients that you can add to a normal diet. For example, vitamins.
There is no clear research evidence to show that food supplements help with eczema.
You will find links to more information about these topics in the ‘other resources’ section, which you can get from the ‘more about treatments’ menu above