In the early months of life, cow’s milk protein is the most common dietary trigger of eczema.
Eczema is also associated with allergies to other foods such as egg, fish, soya, citrus fruits or nuts which may become apparent during weaning (introduction of solid foods into the diet).
These allergies may not necessarily trigger the eczema, but may worsen the existing symptoms.
Even if cow’s milk has been removed from the diet, the presence of the above foods may hinder the healing process.
If cow’s milk protein allergy is suspected, milk is excluded from the diet for at least 2 weeks to see whether conditions improve.
If its removal has an effect, then it may be removed for longer and in severe cases complete exclusion may remain permanently. However as the majority of children outgrow allergy to milk at 3 years of age – the diet and exclusion of milk should be revisited at this age and milk if possible reintroduced to the diet.
While adverse reactions to cow’s milk proteins have an important role in atopic eczema, there are numerous other factors which may also contribute to its development.
Removal of cow’s milk from the diet should be decided with caution since milk and dairy products are sources of many nutrients essential to healthy growth and development.