What is the Allergic March?

 

Allergies often begin early in life, first expressing themselves as eczema in young children. The progression from eczema to later developing food allergies, allergic rhinitis and asthma is called the allergic march. The allergic march is also called the atopic march.

About 50 percent of children with eczema develop asthma and 33 percent develop food allergies. Children with eczema are also at higher risk of developing allergic rhinitis. Food allergies in childhood are also a risk factor for allergic rhinitis and asthma.

Graphic chart showing the stages of the allergist march with four children of different ages , from baby to pre-teen

Is there a way to stop the allergic march?

Eczema is common among infants and it often runs in families. Infants around 3-6 months of age may start to show dry, itchy skin and formation of red, irritated patches.

As researchers continue to study what causes eczema, as well as allergies and asthma, they are discovering interventions may be possible.

The daily application of an unscented moisturizer to the baby’s skin shortly after birth may delay and possibly prevent the onset of eczema, doctors say. The treatment can prevent moisture loss and damage to the skin, as well as serve as a protective barrier from allergens and irritants.

While no specific diet or food can prevent eczema, recent studies suggest expectant moms who eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, fish and vitamin D may reduce the risk of a child developing eczema. Taking a probiotic during pregnancy may also slightly lower a child’s eczema risk. And regular breastfeeding in the baby’s first year of life may decrease the likelihood of the child developing eczema.

Talk with your doctor before considering any interventions, especially involving diet during pregnancy.

Can peanut allergy be prevented?

Infants and young children with moderate-to-severe eczema are at risk for developing peanut allergy.

New peanut allergy prevention guidelines from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases say infants with severe eczema, egg allergy or both are at high risk for peanut allergy and should be given peanut-containing foods as early as 4-6 months of age to reduce the risk. Infants with mild to moderate eczema should be given peanut-containing foods around 6 months of age to reduce the risk of peanut allergy.

Always talk with a board-certified allergist before introducing peanut to a child at risk for peanut allergy.

Studies addressing eczema and early introduction of other food allergens – such as cow’s milk and egg are ongoing.

How do you maintain a strong immune system?

Here are ways to support your immune system:

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods.
  • Stay active – exercise regularly
  • Spend time outdoors and soak up vitamin D
  • Avoid allergy and asthma triggers: pollen, mold, dust mites, air pollution and tobacco
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get plenty of sleep

No supplements have been linked to immune boosting, but you can take vitamin D if you are low or deficient — low levels of vitamin D can affect your immune system.

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