Food Allergies and Your Baby's Skin

Could your baby's diet be causing that rash? Learn which foods could wreak havoc with your baby's skin.

baby Peter Ardito

That red rash on your baby's skin could actually be related to something in her dinner. But there's plenty of misinformation out there about how a baby's diet can cause itching, inflammation, and more.

"Baby skin rashes can worsen with exposure to certain foods," warns Latanya Benjamin, M.D., clinical assistant professor of pediatrics and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Stanford University Hospital in Palo Alto, California. "However, babies tend to have food sensitivities, rather than true food allergies. There is a difference, and your dermatologist and allergist can help you distinguish between the two."

Get the scoop on the most common rashes -- and the foods that are most often to blame.

    Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)

    Foods: Eggs, peanuts, milk, wheat, fish, and soy

    Experts believe that 6 to 10 percent of children have eczema and that up to one-third of them may have food allergies. Because these issues often appear hand in hand, it is important for parents of infants and small children affected by this atopic dermatitis to be aware of this connection. A recent five-year multi-center study conducted by Jon M. Hanifin, M.D., professor of dermatology at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, found that in babies age 3 to 18 months with mild cases of atopic dermatitis, roughly 15 percent had definite food allergies, while in patients with more severe cases of atopic dermatitis, there's a higher likelihood of developing food allergies. The foods most likely to be to blame for eczema flare-ups are eggs, peanuts, milk, wheat, fish, and soy products. According to the new recommendations, children under 5 years old with moderate to severe atopic dermatitis should be considered for food allergy evaluation, if at least one of the following conditions is met:

      • The child has persistent AD in spite of optimized management and topical therapy
      • The child has reliable history of an immediate reaction after ingestion of a specific food

        Diaper rash

        Foods: Citrus fruits, juices, tomatoes and tomato-based products (spaghetti sauce), strawberries, pineapples and other tart fruits

        When babies start eating solid foods, the frequency and content of their bowel movements changes. All those new foods can make diaper rash more likely, especially in babies 9 months or older. Acidic foods such as citrus and tomato-based sauces are often to blame for irritating baby's skin and creating a red, sore ring around the anus -- and often around the mouth as well. Keeping the area clean and dry through frequent diaper changes, cleansing with neutral pH non-soap cleansers, and use of zinc oxide-based pastes can be a big help.

        Hives

        Foods: Milk, egg, peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts, pecans or almonds), fish, shellfish, soy, wheat

        True food allergies usually manifest themselves as hives (red, itchy welts on the skin); swelling on the face, tongue or lips; wheezing or difficulty breathing; severe vomiting; or facial flushing. These can be serious and life-threatening conditions, so it is very important to catch the warning signs quickly. There are about 160 allergenic foods, but the eight listed above are the culprits about 90 percent of the time. Peanut allergies are particularly common, so it is important to ask your pediatrician for advice on when to start incorporating peanuts into your baby's diet. Try to introduce foods slowly (about five days apart), so that if there is a reaction, the trigger is easily identified. If your child experiences any of the previously listed symptoms, call 911 immediately, and have a follow-up consult with your regular health care provider.