Can Skin Problems Increase the Risk of Food Allergies?
Date: May 2019
Food allergies are an increasingly common problem. We don’t know why this is the case, but there is some evidence that having a skin condition could affect your chances of developing a food allergy.
Skin Conditions and Food Allergies
One reason why your skin could be affecting the chances of developing a food allergy is that both conditions are associated with your immune system. Although we don’t know exactly why these conditions develop, we know that they do run in the same families. If someone in the family has eczema
then it is more likely that there are relatives with asthma, hayfever and allergies too.
How Damaged Skin Could Put You at Risk?
We’ve known about the connection between allergies, asthma and eczema for a long time, but recent research has revealed another connection between these common conditions. It seems that having a condition such as eczema that damages the skin could increase the risk of developing food allergies.
The link to food allergies occurs because these conditions can prevent our skin from fulfilling its role as a protective barrier. Our skin comes in contact will all kinds of things during the course of the day. We might get rained on, have dust and pollen blown onto us, or spill food while cooking and eating. Normally, our skin protects us against all of this. Only certain substances can pass through our skin, which is why scientists have to work so hard to develop medications that will work as creams.
However, if our skin is damaged, it can be easier for potentially harmful substances to get into our bodies. Many skin infections start from a cut or damaged area, but even apparently harmless substances can cause problems when they get into our skin. Foods such as peanuts and egg whites can trigger allergies when they enter through the skin, even in people who have been able to eat them without any problems. The immune system can get confused if it encounters foods through an unusual route and this is more likely to happen when you have damaged skin.
What Can You Do to Reduce the Risks?
Food allergies are a growing problem in the UK and you may be at higher risk if you have a condition such as eczema. Here are a few steps you can take to protect yourself:
- See a dermatologist and follow their recommendations if you have a skin problem such as eczema. It can prevent or relieve the symptoms so that there is less opportunity for allergens to enter through damaged skin.
- Protect your skin with moisturiser. Although we don’t know whether it can prevent food allergies, there is some evidence that it might help.
- Try to keep potential allergens away from damaged areas of skin, for example by wearing gloves when you wash up if your hands are affected.
- See a doctor if you think you have a food allergy as you may need to avoid certain foods.
- Get help right away if you experience swelling or breathing problems as you may be having a serious allergic reaction.