Role of food allergy in atopic dermatitis

Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2004 Oct;4(5):379-85. doi: 10.1097/00130832-200410000-00009.


Purpose of review: Food allergy and atopic dermatitis often occur in the same patient. Based on clinical data from the past few decades, it is clear that foods such as cow's milk and hen's eggs can directly provoke flares of atopic dermatitis particularly in sensitized infants, whereas inhaled allergens and pollen-related foods are of greater importance in older children, adolescents and adults. Because the role and immunology of food allergy in atopic dermatitis remain controversial, here we review data that mainly focus on skin eczema and food allergy.

Recent findings: Clinical studies have revealed that more than 50% of all children with atopic dermatitis that can be exacerbated by certain foods will react with a worsening of skin eczema alone or in addition to immediate symptoms. Adolescents and adults also react to foods, but reactions to 'classical' food allergens such as hen's eggs and cow's milk are not as common as in childhood. Subgroups of children and of adults with atopic dermatitis do, however, react to pollen-associated foods. Both immunoglobulin E associated and independent T-cell mediated responses appear to be involved in clinical eczematous reactions.

Summary: Food-induced eczema should be diagnosed only by a thorough diagnostic procedure, taking into account the patient's history, the degree of sensitization and the clinical relevance of the sensitization. More clinical and immunological studies are needed to unravel the pathophysiology and the different rates of clinical responsiveness to different foodstuffs in patients with atopic dermatitis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Allergens / immunology
  • Child
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / diagnosis
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / immunology*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / complications
  • Food Hypersensitivity / epidemiology
  • Food Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Pollen / immunology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence


  • Allergens