A new study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood suggests that infants who eat fish before the age of nine months have a decreased risk of developing eczema.
A family history of atopic disease (allergies) is the main risk factor. In recent years, however, researchers have begun to focus on environmental and dietary factors as well.
This study is important because, in the past, some doctors have recommended against introducing fish into a young child’s diet. The fish may protect against allergic disease because of high levels of omega-3 fatty acids (also see Got Asthma? Eat More Oily Fish!), although researchers admit that it is “somewhat difficult to ascribe the effect to omega-3 fatty acids alone.”
Interestingly, the study also found that having a bird in the home also decreases the risk of eczema. Researchers explain, “The protective effect of having a bird in the home may be due to reverse causation if non-atopic families keep more birds. However, some studies suggest that contact with feathers might prevent atopic disease.” Feathers, for instance, expose children to bacterial particles that may protect against allergic disease.
Environmental risk factors for eczema include low humidity and dust mites. Low humidity tends to dry out the skin; you can add healthy moisture to the air with a humidifier.
Dust mites are microscopic arachnids that live in beds, carpet, and furniture. Millions of dust mites can live in a single bed! Allergic reactions to dust mites may cause nasal allergies, asthma, or atopic eczema. To get rid of dust mites, wash your bedding weekly in hot water and place dust mite covers on your mattress and pillows.