Baby eczema
September 18, 2009 3:25 AM   Subscribe

Is our baby formula causing eczema?

Our four-month-old boy has bad eczema on his head and under his chin.

We've used Diprobase and Diprobath creams to no avail and now suspect the skin complaint may be a reaction to formula milk.

He's been on Aptamil since birth and seems to like it. He certainly drinks plenty of it and he's piling on the weight.

Are there any formulas less likely to trigger eczema, or any other treatments we should try?

We're in the UK.

Thanks a lot.
posted by Blackwatch to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
Eczema isn't exactly caused by food; it appears to be largely genetic. But foods do seem to act as a trigger in some cases. Some people seem to find success in going non-dairy - I think there are soya-based formulas and others that are hypoallergenic (such as Nutramigen).

My own experience of eczema (which I've had since I was your son's age) is that it comes and goes in cycles. You'll be almost free of it for a year or more, then it comes back and makes life hell, then it goes away again.

Avoiding dairy products (or any other foods) did nothing for my eczema, but a lot of people swear by it.

By all means try a different formula, but I would also recommend experimenting with your son's skin-care regime. Try Sudocrem - I've found it to be very effective even as an adult at times.

Also, when the eczema clears up, continue to treat it as if it's still there, for at least a couple of weeks. It tends to lie dormant, which is what causes it to reappear sometimes when you stop treating it.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 3:50 AM on September 18, 2009

My little brother had terrible eczema as a little boy (although as I'm only two years older than him, so I don't know if he had it as young as your son).

My mum tried literally everything to get rid of it (changing washing powders, foods etc etc) and in the end realised it was, as le mort de bea arthur says, dairy which was triggering it.

So, yes it could be the formula. It could be your biological washing powder. It could be a variety of things - I would suggest a controlled removal of possible triggers to identify but those two are my faves.

In terms of creams, I work in a skincare-product related role (in the interests of full disclosure) and we are always bemoaning the lack of good, effective OTC creams for eczema. It feels like the good stuff is all prescription-only - so it might be worth having a word with a doctor or healthcare worker and getting an age-relevant prescription.

(The good news is he grew out of it completely by the age of about five (at which point I got it!) but YMMV.)
posted by citands at 4:23 AM on September 18, 2009

In the states - so I know nothing about the brand of formula that you use.

Our son was mostly formula fed after 8 weeks and he had eczema pretty bad, as well as some GER- or GERD-like symptoms from cheapo formula. (My wife pointed out that like his daddy, he was picky about the quality of his food from a very young age)

Basically, we found a formula that stopped the GER/GERD reactions, then found the organic variety of that which stopped/lessened the eczema. Unfortunately this means that our son has been *expensive* to feed (I can't wait til he's a teenager). We're a month away from swapping to milk and are looking forward to finding out just how that will change his skin complexion.

For creams, we settled on Aquaphor (made by Eucerin). We tried naturals, we tried organics, we tried everything - that's what worked.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:50 AM on September 18, 2009

Best answer: I largely agree with the two responses above and would like to strongly emphasise that after looking far and I wide I have found no proven link between babyfood and eczema

The reason for the strong empasis is the high prevalance of stupidity among internet using public which leads to memes like 'MMR causes autism' and people have tried to sell us these memes ever since we had our child recently.

What is true is this:

1. Some kids who get formula get eczema (so do some kids who like winnie the pooh)

2. Some kinds of foods trigger eczema (this is more likely to be related to the general atopic nature of response to allergens for that child than the food somehow making its way from the intestine to reach the skin and then causing eczema)

I think the best thing to do is to try and identify the trigger and to be aware that your child may be sensitive to allergens around him/her.

All suggestions such as changing detergents etc are good ones.
posted by london302 at 5:57 AM on September 18, 2009

To be clear I agree with the first two responses to this questions. The third response is a useful anecdote but I dont think it proves that organic is less likely to cause eczema. I am sure Nanukthedog didnt intend it to be that way.
posted by london302 at 6:01 AM on September 18, 2009

One of my kids found partial relief fro his eczema when we switched formula -- to Nutramagen, I think. (My Anecdote Is Not Your Data.)

Eucerin cream helped, though we tried a million things. He's older now and it's not as bad, but sometimes it flares up on his knees, elbows, etc. No single, definite cause, either. :7(

Sorry I can't provide a definitive answer: this seems to be one of Those Things thast either you will solve or your child will grow out of.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:15 AM on September 18, 2009

I just saw the doctor a few days ago about my own eczema problem and he told me that there usually isn't a dietary component that leads to the outbreaks. However, he did say that if I noticed it getting worse when I ate particular foods that I should avoid them. So maybe change the formula and see if there is any marked difference? The doctor said the main trigger for eczema is contact with water, ie from showers, baths, washing dishes. I'm not sure if it is applicable to your child, (obviously I'm a grown up), but you might want to try and keep the affected areas free from water as much as possible while you're trying to treat it.

Over the counter treatments didn't work for me at all. Only prescription 1% hydrocortizone cream helped, almost immediately. Again, this might not be applicable to a baby. Good luck and I hope it clears up soon!
posted by hector horace at 7:02 AM on September 18, 2009

Food allergens can worsen the symptoms of eczema, especially in children:
Food Allergies
Food allergies may be the cause of itching or rash that occurs immediately after eating, especially in children. Some common food allergens include milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, nuts, soy and seafood. Most people are allergic to only one, two or at the most three foods. Positive allergy tests do not always indicate clinical allergy. An allergy specialist can help sort this out. Food challenges may need to be done under medical supervision. Be aware that diet restrictions can lead to poor nutrition and growth delay in babies and children, so talk with your healthcare provider about maintaining a well-balanced diet.
Source (lots of great, dr. reviewed info about eczema there).
posted by Kimberly at 7:42 AM on September 18, 2009

Kimberly. Thanks for the text and the source. The useful information that I find is that in a child who currently has no active eczema consumes a food he/she is allergic to this could lead to itching and activate the itching cycle which may reactivate eczema. This is useful action point.

And sorry to be a nitpicker but it would be a tiny bit misleading if someone took it to mean that eczema symptoms got worse due to food allergy. What I read from the passage quoted and the webpage linked is that if your child has itiching due to eczema and one day he/she consumes food which he/she is allergic to then on that day he/she will have more itching because two entirely different processes will be causing itching. The link between the two being the common symptom but not causation.
posted by london302 at 8:22 AM on September 18, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all your very full and carefully considered responses - they really are much appreciated.

I understand that eczema may be triggered by certain foods, and we are consulting doctors/health visitors for the latest advice.

Just wondered if anyone had seen a marked improvement after switching from Aptamil to another brand.

From my own brief research, I think we may also have to look at our bathing routines for the baby. He's generally bathed every evening before bed, albeit only with plain water (latterly plain water and Diprobath).

Perhaps we need to consider exposing his young skin to quite so much water.

Thanks again.
posted by Blackwatch at 8:51 AM on September 18, 2009

Nghtly bathes seem excessive to me. Just make sure that he's clean after nappy changes and move to 1.5 times a week.
posted by k8t at 9:21 AM on September 18, 2009

I suffered from the world's most horrible, terrible, oozy, flaky seborrheic eczema behind my ears from birth to age 20-ish. It was so bad they'd crust over and crack open and bleed. No matter how well I dried behind my ears after bathing - they'd ooze. No doctor could ever get rid of it all of my life, and I saw SEVERAL doctors over the years trying to get rid of it.... until I went for a physical to enter college and the new doctor just out of med school had me try TOPICORT (aka: Desoximetasone) and it went away right away and never returned.
posted by goml at 10:19 AM on September 18, 2009

It's not eczema but my 8 month old son has a milk protein allergy. For him it manifested with severe gas, nasal congestion, burping, etc. Then at 7 weeks he passed blood--sure sign of protein allergy. He's been on Similac's Allimentum since. It helped. There is also a prescription based formula that if you can get a doc note saying this is all he can eat, you might be able to get it covered by insurance (I'm in the US, not sure about UK). A few sites have listed eczema as one of the symptoms associated with milk protein allergy (mind you this is different than lactose intolerance).

Soy was also an option but for my son, it didn't work.

Two cases of Allimentum (12 bottles) is running us $110 every 2 weeks (just letting you know). Good times but hey, the kid has to eat.

Most outgrow this allergy by 1-2 years old. So there is light at the tunnel. Ask your doctor.
posted by stormpooper at 11:00 AM on September 18, 2009

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