Role of food allergy in childhood atopic dermatitis


  • Dianne E Campbell

    1. Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Sydney, Sydney and Department of Immunology and Allergy, Children's Hospital, Westmead, Australia
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Associate Professor Dianne E Campbell, Department of Immunology, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Westmead, NSW 2145, Australia. Fax: +61 2 9845 3389; email:


The interplay between atopic dermatitis (AD) and food allergy is complex and subject to significant misconceptions both by the general public and the medical community. Childhood AD is a very prevalent disorder. In its moderate and severe forms, AD is a challenging disorder to manage from the perspective of the child, parent and treating doctor. As AD is one of the disease manifestations of atopy, it is unsurprising that many children with AD also have a coexisting IgE-mediated food allergy. It is a common misconception that food allergy is causal in the setting of AD. However, in a proportion of sufferers, food allergy does play a role in triggering or exacerbating pre-existing AD by immune-mediated mechanisms and potentially by non-immune mechanisms. It is, therefore, important to differentiate causality, co-existent disease and disease modifiers in this context. This paper seeks to clarify the role of food allergy in childhood AD, and to outline a rational framework for the diagnosis and approach to food allergy in the context of the management of a child with problematic AD.