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When should I have my baby allergy tested? What age can babies get allergy tested? Is allergy testing painful for babies? These are common questions parents ask when they want to help their newborns. We’ve got the answers regarding baby allergies and allergy testing!
When babies are born they can’t speak to us. They hardly move and most of their communication is non-verbal, although crying is a form of communication too. Babies learn to grab and cry and that’s how parents know their baby is upset, happy, or hungry.
Parents to newborns have to interpret non-verbal communication when things are good and when they are bad.
In this article we’ll discuss environmental allergy testing for babies with eczema. I’ll share my experience with eczema as a child and provide examples of when baby eczema might be allergy. Lastly we’ll discuss a few options to reduce baby eczema and skin discomfort.
Growing Up With Allergies Versus Allergy Testing As A Baby (My Experience)
I experienced allergies as a child but I didn’t have any as a baby. I know from experience that treating allergies early is the best way to go.
My allergies started with easily manageable symptoms. In fact, I ignored them and hoped I’d outgrow my symptoms. Sniffles and itchy eyes slowly became worse over time and eventually I began to experience bad eczema and fatigue. My allergies were getting worse instead of getting better.
Unfortunately I didn’t catch my allergies until I was an adult. I was finally allergy tested and found out that my minor allergy symptoms had ballooned into major allergies (to many things).
By this time my eczema was out of control and even steroid creams weren’t helping. But once I was tested I figured out what was bothering me and could better manage my symptoms.
Although my eczema developed as a child, I’ve also witnessed family and friends with a newborn that has eczema. A baby with eczema can be tough to deal with. Your baby might be in pain, might unknowingly scratch and damage their skin, and it looks unsightly.
In particular I saw my niece deal with eczema as a baby and I saw my sister panic to find out why I was happening. Thankfully, they took my niece to be allergy tested as a baby and learn how to keep the symptoms in check.
Benefits Of Allergy Testing For Babies With Eczema
Eczema is extremely common to see in newborn babies. In fact, about 20 percent of babies will experience some type of eczema on their skin.
Don’t worry, as most babies will “outgrow” their eczema as their immune system matures. However, dealing with eczema when they get it is important to relieve discomfort and reduce the chance of infection and scaring.
The problem with baby eczema is it’s hard to diagnose. Some babies will display eczema but not be allergic to anything while others will have eczema only when they lay on a certain mattress or grass, or eat a specific food. While allergy testing might seen like a big inconvenience, it’s relatively simple and won’t hurt your baby at all.
The great thing about having you baby allergy tested is you’ll know what/what isn’t bothering them. If there is an allergy you can easily avoid those substances and make life for you and your baby easier.
I remember when my sister had her baby. Within a few weeks her baby began displaying eczema. She was in pain, itchy and uncomfortable.
This caused the baby to cry more which led to sleepless nights for everyone. Eventually they visited an allergist and did a simple skin test (percutaneous) for environmental allergens and discovered she was allergic to dust mites.
Related: My Allergy Shots Review
Dust mites are commonly found on couches, mattresses, blankets, and carpets (basically indoor fabrics that aren’t regularly washed). They are a major source of allergic eczema, rhinitis, and indoor allergies, however since they are invisible to the naked eye most people don’t realize these tiny arachnids are causing allergy.
My sister removed certain fabrics, washed clothes and blankets regularly with eucalyptus essential oil and put an allergy cover on the crib mattress. Within a few days the eczema cleared up and her baby was sleeping through the night.
When Can Babies Be Tested For Allergies
The most common environmental allergy testing is the skin prick test (percutaneous). Allergists usually advise to wait 6 months after a baby is born (source) to do a test. Depending on the severity, an allergist may recommend doing a skin prick test earlier or not at all.
The Process of Allergy Testing for Babies (How Allergy Testing Works)
There are a few types of allergy testing offered by doctors. The most common is the skin prick test. Food allergy tests can use the skin prick or a blood test (ImmunoCAP test) that can measure IgE antibodies against certain foods.
There is also patch testing that can be done to see if you have contact dermatitis to specific substances.
In most cases, you’ll use a skin prick test just like my niece and I experienced. Don’t mind the name, a skin prick is harmless and your baby won’t feel a thing (if he/she is allergic there might be an itch a few minutes after the test).
Instead of “skin prick” I think “skin press” is more appropriate.
Your allergist will look over the symptoms and talk to you about potential causes of allergic eczema. After an examination, your doctor will decide which allergy test is most appropriate and more than likely it will be a skin prick test on your baby’s back.
A spectrum of allergens will be lightly pressed against your babies back (sometimes over 100 things) and there will be a waiting period of about 15 minutes. If your baby’s skin reacts to the substances a measurement will be recorded.
Once all reactions are recorded the nurse will rub a small amount of cortisone cream on the reactions to help reduce any itch.
Next, the doctor will discuss ways to avoid allergens, improve your home environment, and make a plan with medicine if needed.
Where To Schedule Allergy Testing For Babies With Eczema
There are three places people take babies with eczema.
The first place is a family doctor. The second place is a dermatologist. The third place people take their babies with eczema is to an allergist.
Let’s take a look at what you can expect and I’ll share my experience visiting each type of doctor.
Family doctors are great. They develop rapport with a family and your baby will likely grow up him/her. Some family doctors have the capacity to do basic allergy testing, however the number of allergens they have access to will likely be limited compared to the resources of an allergy specialist.
I visited my family doctor for 2 decades. He prescribed me cortisone cream during this time and never mentioned the possibility of allergy or referred me to an allergist. I regret not asking to see an allergist, but I was a child and didn’t know any better.
If you have a great relationship with your family doctor, make an appointment to talk with him. I’d recommend insisting on a referral to an allergist if you think it’s allergy!
A dermatologist is a skin specialist. Many people with eczema visit a dermatologist before they see an allergist and I’ll admit, it’s a logical step because eczema is a skin condition.
My experience with dermatologists is mixed. While my dermatologist did try to help me, he also told me that eczema and allergy weren’t connected.
He prescribed me harsh skin cream that burned my skin and prescribed me prednisone (a strong steroid). After I requested to be allergy tested, my dermatologist reluctantly did a test “in-house”. It was a patch test for 5 household items and I tested negative. The test wasn’t thorough enough to determine if I really had allergies.
My dermatologist was helpful in treating the skin, but not helpful in finding what caused it. I had multiple visits to my dermatologist regarding eczema and was never referred to an allergist.
It wasn’t until I was in my late 20’s did I finally visit an allergist. I had never been referred, so I made the appointment on my own and I didn’t have great insurance. I knew there was a chance my insurance wouldn’t cover it but I was desperate (if you have good insurance you’re in luck).
The strangest thing happened when I visited the allergist. He took one look at my skin and said “you clearly have bad allergies”. My heart sank. If it was that obvious why didn’t my other doctors mention it?
I was tested using the skin prick test and I’ve been receiving treatment since. My eczema is mostly clear and my only regret is not visiting an allergist earlier in life.
Sure you can visit your family doctor or dermatologist but if your experience is similar to mine you won’t get to the root of the problem. I strongly recommend making an appointment for your baby with an allergist! They work with infants and young children a lot!
Important Allergy Reduction Steps For Babies With Eczema
Mild eczema is usually not a problem and before you visit an allergist you may want to try a few things at home first.
Below are a few tips that I’ve learned from my allergist to treat my eczema. Your baby might benefit as well. Just by implementing these small changes your baby’s eczema might clear up.
Short, Lukewarm Baths
My first recommendation is something that my allergist advised me on. He told me the hot showers strip natural oils off the body and leave skin vulnerable to drying out. Dry skin can irritate contact dermatitis.
Soaking in the bath can help baby skin absorb moisture and stay supple without drying skin out. Also, avoid harsh soaps that further exacerbate eczema on dry, sensitive skin. I’ve gone to a no soap bathing routine, although I do use soap in certain areas on my body.
Moisturize Eczema After Baths
After bathing it’s important to not rub the towel against baby skin with eczema. Instead, pat-dry and air dry is even better.
Within a few minutes of your baby exiting his/her bath, apply moisturizer on the body. For babies, extra virgin coconut oil and grape seed oil are good options because they are natural and don’t contain synthetic ingredients.
Baby skin is extremely sensitive and will absorb whatever substance you apply (if you’re uncertain ask you doctors about the best moisturizers for babies).
Plenty Of Time Outside in the Garden
One reason for allergic eczema is that your baby’s immune system is still developing. As the immune system develops it occasionally misfires and recognizes harmless substances as dangerous.
Some medical professionals believe that babies should be outside a lot! And not just outside but playing in dirt with billions of bacteria.
A baby’s immune system develops quickly and the more they come in contact with the better – of course there is bad bacteria too but washing hands and basic hygiene can prevent your baby from becoming ill.
Western society has become so sterile that babies aren’t coming in contact with as many bacteria as we once did. Antibacterial hand gel, shoes and socks, and less work in agriculture are all things that make life easier but maybe it’s not the case for our immune system development.
Crib Mattress Covers (and pillow covers)
Using a crib mattress cover saved my sister’s child from eczema. Dust mites in her crib make her skin itch and ooze. After weeks of pain, my niece was allergy tested and the test came back positive for dust mite allergy.
Though her contact with dust mites couldn’t be completely avoided, her sleep was improved with a simple cover that protect her while she was sleeping – and her eczema mostly vanished.
My sister also began washing clothes, blankets, and bedding more frequently using eucalyptus essential oil that thoroughly killed dust mites and their larvae.
HEPA Air Purifier In Room 24/7
HEPA air purifiers help clean the air in the house. If you’re considering an air purifier make sure it’s a “HEPA” filter which means High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance.
HEPA air purifiers will filter out dust mites, cat dander, pollen, and other environmental allergens in the air. Just because we can’t see the allergens doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
The act of walking into a bedroom, or simply using a fan, can stir up allergens and they can be suspended in the air for hours. Once we breathe them into our airways the symptoms begin!
In this article we discussed allergy testing for babies with eczema. Having your baby allergy tested can help determine why your baby has eczema. I also shared what age babies can be allergy tested and if allergy testing for babies is painful.
As someone who’s had eczema their whole life I understand how uncomfortable it can be. Thankfully I didn’t have eczema as a baby, however, I developed allergies when I was young and over time my eczema became much worse. I learned that by not treating eczema early it can become overwhelming.
Using my experiences visiting doctors and learning from my niece’s experience with baby eczema I’ve outlined what you can expect from your doctor. I’ve also shared a few helpful tips that you can do around the house before you visit a doctor.
As always, if your baby needs medical attention make sure to contact your medical provider (this website is not a substitute). Thanks for reading another Dust Mite Solutions article. Be sure to visit our blog for more information on dust mites, allergy, and the best ways to protect yourself!