A recent study links fast food and allergy symptoms, including eczema in children and adolescents. The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood reviewed questionnaires completed by more than 300,000 adolescents and almost 200,000 completed by parents of younger children. The questionnaire asked about symptoms of asthma, eczema, and hay fever, as well as the weekly diets of the children and teens participating in the survey. The study was published in January in the British medical journal Thorax.
Eczema is a chronic skin condition which causes itchy, red, dry, flaky patches on the skin. Though it is not caused by an allergy, those with eczema have a higher risk of developing other allergic reactions, such as asthma or hay fever. Eczema tends to run in families and may worsen during times of stress, irritation from rough substances–such as wool fabrics–sweating and cold, dry climates. Mild cases of eczema are usually treated with over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams but more severe cases can be treated with antihistamines or prescription strength ointments and creams.
The study found a link between eating fast food three or more times per week and an increased risk of developing asthma, eczema, or hay fever. Both groups, the younger children and the adolescents, saw an increased risk of about 30 percent. Both family income and gender were evaluated but neither had an influence on the results of the study.
The study also found eating fruit at least three times per week had a protective effect against severe asthma.
The researchers pointed out that the study showed an "association" between fast food and allergic conditions but this does not necessarily indicate a definitive link between the two. However, in the article on the CNN website, Dr. Stephen Teach, the chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington (who was not involved in the study) stated, "It’s not at all surprising to me that a disease as complex as asthma would be directly affected by diet. We’ve known for a while that diet can affect immune system function with certain foods being pro or anti-inflammatory."
Dr. Teach says it isn’t necessary to cut out all fast food, but limiting it to one or two times a week and increasing the amount of fruit your child eats, especially if he or she has allergies, may be wise.
"Asthma, Eczema and Hay Fever May Be Linked to Fast Food," 2013, Jan. 14, Staff Writer, CNNHealth
"Eczema," 2004, Staff Writer, McKesson Health Solutions
"The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood," http://isaac.auckland.ac.nz/
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.