talkhealth meets... Dr Tom Marrs


Food allergies, eczema and respiratory health problems are common, interlinked and tricky to tackle. These conditions can be particularly hard to understand when you are looking after a child with them. As a parent, you are faced with even bigger questions surrounding education, care and management.

We are excited to have Dr Tom Marrs join our expert panel. A maestro in all things allergens, Dr Marrs can answer all of your respiratory, eczema and allergy questions. Before his webinar, we wanted you to get to know him better. Here, he answers talkhealth’s burning questions…

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What fascinates you about allergies? 

These days, we not only have the potential to treat allergies but we are also able to modify them and prevent them from happening. Allergy is an area of healthcare that causes lots of confusion but research around it is moving so fast. Many important developments are happening which will enable better progressive treatment that is set to make a real difference!

Why is increasing education around allergies so important these days?

We are increasingly aware of risks and 'what if' scenarios, so knowledge of allergies is really important. There is also lots of concerning publicity around fatal food reactions which, when coupled with a lack of access to good information and better care, is a problem. That’s why there is an enormous need for good quality educational resources. We need a correct diagnosis, sensible proportionate avoidance strategies and, most importantly, safe alternatives and recommendations for each person.

How are food allergies, respiratory health and eczema all interlinked?

It has been shown that babies' eczema and their later development of food allergy might be linked due to their skin barrier. Proving a robust link between these two things and asthma is difficult because it normally develops years later. More work is needed to characterise the process better.

What red flags should parents look out for when it comes to allergies?

1 - Early recognition of itching should be a sign for you to start looking at appropriate and safe creams for a baby. If you catch signs early it can also help us to improve eczema care.

2 - If you can hear your child making sniffing noises and see them rubbing the top of the mouth (making a clicking noise with their tongue) it could be that they are living with allergic rhinitis, treatment with sprays can really help.

3 - Coughing in cold air, whilst exercising and overnight is a sign that you should seek medical help for possible asthma. Also, coughing and a hoarse voice can occur after your child has eaten an allergen, especially if they have rashes or they are feeling unwell. In this situation, you should consider calling an ambulance.

What are the key things that we can do to help children with allergies?

Two things that I would say we can do to help children with allergies are, recognising itching skin and repeated sniffing as early signs of allergies and normalising the introduction of peanut butter into babies' diets along with their first other solids (unless there are concerns of eczema). Doing these things will help kids with allergies and may also prevent the development of them in the first place. 

Are there any long-standing misconceptions surrounding allergies? Can you bust them? 

WRONG: Eczema is routinely caused by food allergens. It is primarily caused by skin dryness, often from a genetic faulty 'waterproofing' gene.  

WRONG: Allergic reactions get worse and worse with each one that happens. This myth is damaging and entirely false. We now know that allergic reactions are more severe with greater allergen exposure. So, if your child is allergic to something, they will react even to small doses. 

WRONG: MMR vaccination is unsafe in a child with an egg allergy. It can be given under routine primary care conditions.

Another key respiratory allergy is hay fever, can you tell me more about it? 

Hay fever is often dismissed as being a 'mild allergy' because you cannot die from rhinitis. In reality, it can have an enormous detrimental effect. It can make you feel like you have the flu all year round and can prevent you from sleeping well. Also, old-fashioned Piriton can affect your concentration. In fact, research shows that children self-medicating for hay fever are more likely to drop a GCSE grade between mocks and their summer GCSEs, whereas most children increase their grades. 

You are determined to make access to education about allergies more accessible, how are you doing this? 

I hope to increase the awareness of allergies through my work with the British Society of Allergy and Immunology. We are working to create resources for parents of young children. I also work with the Eczema Society to improve their leaflets and articles in their magazine. Also, I work on blogs for, and train, medical professionals who are interested in improving care and creating resources.

Are allergy cases on the rise?

Goodness, there is a good question, let me find my PhD thesis.....

If you need extra support for your skin, respiratory health or allergies, we have a hub for all three on our platform! Visit the talkeczema, talkrespiratory and talkallergy hubs today.

Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. The content however should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands or treatments.

Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 3 February 2022
Next review: 3 February 2025