Eczema is common, affecting one in five children. Many parents worry that it’s caused by something that their child is eating and will ask their GP about an allergy test. However, allergy tests are imperfect and we don’t know whether avoiding certain foods makes any difference to eczema symptoms. Patients and doctors agree that this problem is a research priority.
The Trial of Eczema allergy Screening Tests (TEST) study will help decide whether routine allergy tests for children with eczema are helpful or not. Eighty children in and around the Bristol area will take part in a clinical trial.
Half will receive usual care from their GP, while the other half will be asked extra questions and offered skin prick allergy tests. This involves ‘pricking’ small drops of six common allergy-causing foods (cow's milk, peanut, hen's egg, codfish, wheat and cashew) into the skin and noting any reaction, for example, swelling.
Some children will be also be observed eating some of the food(s) at their local hospital. Depending on what the tests show, parents will be advised what foods are safe or should be avoided at home. The children will be followed up for six months and some parents and GPs interviewed to find out what they think about the tests and the study itself.
Dr Matthew Ridd, a GP and Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol said: “At the end of this project, we will know how well a bigger study, involving more GPs, parents and children, would work. We will also have a better understanding of what parents and GPs think about food allergies and tests in children with eczema.
Recruitment to the study begins in summer 2018 and the results will be reported in early 2020. For more information, see the study website www.bristol.ac.uk/eczema-allergy-study, follow progress on Twitter (@eczema_allergy) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.