Dietary restriction and supplementation in children with atopic eczema


  • Conflict of interest: none declared.

Dr Kam-lun Ellis Hon, Department of Paediatrics, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 6/F, Clinical Sciences Building, Prince of Wales Hospital, Shatin, Hong Kong SAR, China.


Issues on empirical dietary restriction or supplementation are important but inadequately studied in children with atopic eczema (AE). The dietary habits of children with AE followed at a paediatric dermatology clinic (n = 179) were compared with those without eczema (n = 78). The mothers of 53% of the patients with or without eczema did not breastfeed their children. Common food items avoided by parents whose children have moderate-to-severe AE included fish or seafood [64% vs. 32% of controls, odds ratio (OR) 3.84, 95% CI 2.12–6.95], beef (42% vs. 17%; OR = 3.57, 95% CI 1.79–7.11), eggs (34% vs. 14%; OR = 3.05, 95% CI 1.46–6.34) and cows' milk (18% vs. 4%; OR = 5.56, 95% CI 1.61–19.12); whereas their avoidance was less frequent in children with noneczematous diseases. The avoidance of these foods were often based on belief, but 66% of all AE patients who had avoided any of the above foods reported previous experience of eczema exacerbation by these items. Patients with moderate-to-severe AE were more likely to have consumed ‘bird's nest' soup and traditional Chinese medicines. It is important to evaluate whether the AE patients are genuinely ‘allergic’ to some of these food items. Management is suboptimal if children with food allergy and severe disease continue to consume the culprit food. Conversely, avoidance of common foods in children without food allergy could result in food faddism or malnutrition.