Eczema in babies
Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is the most common form of eczema.1 It mainly affects children, causing their skin to become dry, red, cracked and itchy and usually occurs in folds of the skin (e.g. behind the knees, inside the elbows, on the sides of the neck, around the eyes and ears).
About 20% of children in the UK have eczema.1 It often manifests before the first birthday.1 The exact cause of eczema is not known, but there is thought to be a strong genetic element and in some cases it is linked with other allergies.
Atopic eczema can sometimes be triggered by food allergens, especially before the age of 1 year. Common food allergens include:
- Cows’ milk
Other allergens include: house-dust mites, pet fur and pollen.
Advice for parents
For all infants, exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for at least the first 4–6 months of life – it is the best nutrition for babies and also offers the best protection against allergy development. If exclusive breastfeeding is not possible, infants at increased risk of developing allergic disease may benefit from the use of a specially developed formula with a documented preventive effect for the first 4 months of life (as recommended by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology).2,3
Reducing the risk of developing allergy in bottle-fed infants has been a major focus of research.4 The German Infant Nutritional Intervention (GINI) Study5,6 – the world’s largest independent study looking at the prevention of allergies (2,252 babies) – demonstrated that certain formulas, including SMA H.A.® Infant Milk, can reduce the risk of a baby developing atopic eczema by 50% in the first year of life in high-risk babies who had a family history of the condition (those with at least one parent or sibling with an allergy).6
Not all hydrolysed formulas have been found to reduce the risk of developing eczema. Therefore clinical guidelines, such as those developed by the European Academy for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI), suggest choosing a formula that has been clinically proven.7
- NHS Choices. Atopic eczema. 2014 Available here.
- Fleischer DM et al. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract 2013; 1: 29–36.
- de Silva D et al. Allergy 2014; 69: 581–589.
- Alexander DD, Cabana MD. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2010; 50: 422–430.
- von Berg A et al. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2003; 111: 533–540.
- von Berg A et al. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2008; 121: 1442–1447.
- Muraro A et al. Allergy 2014; 69: 590–601.