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Why Your Child May Get Eczema and How To Avoid It

How to avoid eczema

If you want to help your child avoid getting eczema, the results of a new study offer parents a suggestion concerning the use of antibiotics. Several other options are also provided about how to avoid eczema.

What parents should know about antibiotics and eczema

A research team composed of experts from various British health and medical facilities evaluated data from 20 studies concerning eczema, a general term for various types of dermatitis or itchy skin. Among the most common types of eczema are atopic dermatitis (the most severe and chronic kind of eczema), contact dermatitis, and seborrheic dermatitis.

Atopic dermatitis is the form that most often is diagnosed during the first year of life, and it is estimated to affect more than 30 million Americans, according to the National Eczema Association. This kind of eczema often affects individuals who either have asthma and/or hay fever or who have family members with these allergic conditions.

In the new study, the investigators looked at the individuals’ exposure to antibiotics before birth and up to one year after, and later development of eczema. They discovered the following:

  • Infants were more likely (up to 40% greater risk) to develop eczema if they were given antibiotics during the first year of life
  • Each additional course of antibiotics could increase an individual’s risk of eczema by an additional 7 percent
  • Prenatal exposure to antibiotics was not a risk factor for eczema

One reason for the increased risk of eczema associated with antibiotic use was offered by one of the authors, Dr. Teresa Tsakok of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, who noted that “broad-spectrum antibiotics alter the gut microflora and that this in turn affects the maturing immune system in a way that promotes allergic disease development.”

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What parents can do
Parents should discuss alternatives to antibiotics with their physician if their child develops an infection or condition that may or may not be treated effectively with these drugs. If antibiotics are deemed necessary, parents should discuss also giving their child probiotics to help offset the killing of beneficial bacteria caused by the drug use.

If a child does develop eczema, a variety of treatments are available. Conventional approaches include antihistamines, immunomodulators (e.g., pimecrolimus, tacrolimus), and topical steroids, all of which are associated with side effects.

Some of the ways to treat eczema naturally and safely include the use of probiotics (beneficial bacteria) in foods and/or supplements, bleach baths, omega-3 fatty acid supplements, aloe vera, and following a diet that eliminates inflammatory foods such as processed meats, dairy products, and refined grains.

According to the new study’s senior author, Dr. Carsten Flohr, “A better understanding of the complex relationship between antibiotic use and allergic disease [such as eczema] is a priority for clinicians and health policymakers alike.” Add to that list parents who want to better understand how their children may get eczema and how to avoid it.

National Eczema Association
Tsakok T et al. Does early life exposure to antibiotics increase the risk of eczema? A systematic review. British Journal of Dermatology 2013 Jun 20. Doi:10.1111/bjd.12476

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