Can Vaccines Cause Eczema?

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, can be hard to control.

That’s one of the things that is so frustrating about it.

It’s also often hard to figure out what exactly is triggering a child’s eczema. Is it the soap you are using, your child’s clothes, or something he eat or drank?

What Causes Kids to Have Eczema?

Another frustrating thing for parents, and pediatricians, is that we really don’t know what usually causes kids to have eczema in the first place.

Was it the soap you are using, your child’s clothes, or something he eat or drank?

“Research suggests that genes are the determining causes of eczema and other atopic diseases. This means that you are more likely to have atopic dermatitis, food allergies, asthma and/or hayfever if your parents or other family members have ever had eczema.”

Mark Boguniewicz, MD on What Causes Eczema

Unfortunately, simply knowing that eczema is genetic doesn’t make it any less frustrating for many people.

“There is emerging evidence that inflammation in atopic dermatitis is associated with immune-mediated and inherited abnormalities in the skin barrier.”

Amy Stanway, MD on Causes of atopic dermatitis

You can avoid likely triggers, including harsh soaps and dry skin, etc., and learn the best ways to care for your baby’s skin though.

Can Vaccines Cause Eczema?

Why do some folks associate vaccines with eczema?

“It is unusual for an infant to be affected with atopic dermatitis before the age of four months but they may suffer from infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis or other rashes prior to this.”

Amy Stanway, MD on Atopic Dermatitis

It’s easy to understand when you realize that 60% of kids with eczema have their first symptoms before their first birthday and for some, the first symptoms start around the time an infant is just over four months old.

Many baby rashes, especially if they started before 4 months, are probably not eczema.
Many baby rashes, especially if they started before 4 months, are probably not eczema. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Did your baby have bad skin before four months?

Many do, but they usually don’t have eczema. In the first week or two, newborn rashes like infantile seborrheic dermatitis and neonatal acne continue to worsen, until they reach a peak at about age six weeks. It isn’t until about three or four months that baby’s begin to have good skin. Unless they start to develop eczema…

So, since the eczema symptoms start after a child’s four or six months shots, then it must be the vaccines, right?

While the correlation is obvious, that obviously doesn’t prove that vaccines cause eczema.

“Vaccinations do NOT cause eczema.”

Amy Paller, MD on Do vaccines cause eczema?

And, not surprisingly, several studies (listed below) prove that they don’t.

A large study of vaccinated vs unvaccinated children, Vaccination Status and Health in Children and Adolescents Findings of the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (KiGGS), also found that “the prevalence of allergic diseases and non-specific infections in children and adolescents was not found to depend on vaccination status.”

Can Vaccine Ingredients Trigger Eczema?

Now that we know that vaccines don’t actually cause eczema, what about the idea that vaccines can make a child’s eczema worse?

That’s actually true, but only for the smallpox vaccine.

If someone with eczema gets vaccinated with vaccinia, the smallpox vaccine, or is recently exposed to someone who was vaccinated, they could develop eczema vaccinatum. Fortunately, since smallpox was eradicated, very few people get the smallpox vaccine anymore.

And back before smallpox was eradicated, they actually developed an attenuated version of the smallpox vaccine that could safely be used in kids with eczema!

Other vaccines are not thought to trigger or worsen eczema.

“Parents of atopic children should be encouraged to fully immunize their children.”

Grüber et al on Early atopic disease and early childhood immunization–is there a link?

While many kids with eczema do have food allergies and some vaccines do contain some residual food proteins, including eggs and milk, it is very rare for them to trigger food allergy reactions.

If this has you concerned, remember that even kids with egg allergies can now get the flu shot, and while many kids with eczema have food allergies, the food allergy isn’t usually thought to make their eczema worse. As part of the atopic march, they just have both – food allergies and eczema. Some also have hayfever or asthma.

In addition to your pediatrician, a pediatric allergist can help you with any remaining concerns about eczema and vaccines. A pediatric dermatologist can also be helpful if you are having a hard time getting your child’s eczema under control.

What to Know About Vaccines and Eczema

Vaccines don’t cause eczema and except for the smallpox vaccine, they won’t make your child’s eczema worse. Experts recommend that kids with eczema be fully vaccinated.

More on Vaccines and Eczema

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