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Eczema is an itchy skin rash that usually shows up before age 5. Experts don't know exactly what causes it, but your child is more likely to have it if other family members have eczema, asthma, or allergies.
Scientists at the Children's National Health System in Washington, D.C., examined data from a long-term study involving 2,000 pregnant women and their babies. Researchers recorded the women's diets during pregnancy, along with how they fed their babies during the first year of life. Later, researchers followed up on the children's health at age 6, including whether they suffered from eczema.
About 300 of the children had eczema at some point during the study period, the researchers found. Interestingly, kids with an eczema diagnosis who were breastfed exclusively (meaning they didn't get any formula) for at least three months, were about half as likely to still have the skin condition at age 6, compared to children who weren't breastfed, or were breastfed for a shorter period of time, according to a report on the findings.
The takeaway? Breastfeeding exclusively may not prevent eczema, but it does seem to reduce children's risk of having eczema that persists into later childhood, lead study author Katherine Balas said in a statement.
The findings, presented at a recent meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology in San Francisco, are preliminary and haven't yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. However, another study published in JAMA Pediatrics last year also found that infants who breastfed for at least three months had a much lower risk of eczema later in life than children who weren't breastfed.
Here are some tips on how to tell if your baby has eczema. If your child has the condition, there are steps you can take to help treat eczema and avoid triggers that can make it flare up.
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