Q. Since this condition is associated with allergies, can certain foods be the cause?
A. Rarely (perhaps 10%). Although some foods may provoke atopic dermatitis, especially in infants and young children with asthma, eliminating those foods is rarely a cure. You should eliminate any foods that cause immediate severe reactions or welts.
Q. Are environmental causes important and should they be eliminated?
A. Rarely. The elimination of contact or airborne substances does not bring lasting relief. Occasionally, dust and dust-catching objects like feather pillows, down comforters, kapok pillows and mattresses, cat and dog dander, carpeting, drapes, some toys, wool, and other rough fabrics, can worsen atopic dermatitis.
Q. Are skin tests, like those given for hay fever or asthma, of any value in finding the causes?
A. Sometimes, but not as a rule. A positive test means allergy only about 20% of the time. If negative, the test is good evidence against allergy.
Q. Are “shots” such as those given for hay fever and other allergies, useful?
A. Not usually. They may even make the skin condition worse in some patients.
Q. What should be done to treat this condition?
A. See your dermatologist for advice on avoiding irritating factors in creams and lotions; rough, scratchy, or tight clothing; and woolens. Rapid changes of temperature and any activity that causes sweating can aggravate atopic dermatitis. Proper bathing, moisturizing, and dealing with emotional upsets which may make the condition worse can be discussed. Your dermatologist can prescribe external medications such as steroids and newer immune modifying creams. Internal medications such as antihistamines can help with the itch. Oral antibiotics may be prescribed if there is a secondary infection. For severe cases, your dermatologist may recommend ultraviolet light treatment, or other treatments.