NEW YORK: If you are in the habit of using wipes for your infants, beware. They are likely to trigger childhood food allergies that may impact kids’ quality of life, researchers have warned.
The study, reported in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, showed a mix of environmental and genetic factors that must co-exist to trigger the allergies in children.
It includes genetics that alters skin absorbency, use of infant cleansing wipes that leave soap on the skin, skin exposure to allergens in dust and skin exposure to food from those providing infant care.
“Then I thought about what are babies exposed to,” lead author Joan Cook-Mills said in a statement. “They are exposed to environmental allergens in dust in a home. They may not be eating food allergens as a newborn, but they are getting them on their skin. Say a sibling with peanut butter on her face kisses the baby. Or a parent is preparing food with peanuts and then handles the baby.”
“This is a recipe for developing a food allergy,” said Cook-Mills, Professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in the US. “It’s a major advance in our understanding of how food allergy starts early in life.”
However, the good news is factors leading to a food allergy can be modified in the home environment, Cook-Mills said.
“Reduce baby’s skin exposure to the food allergens by washing your hands before handling the baby,” Cook-Mills said.
“Limit use of infant wipes that leave soap on the skin. Rinse soap off with water like we used to do years ago,” she noted.
For the study, Cook-Mills and team used a neonatal mouse model with skin barrier mutations and tried exposing its skin to food allergens like peanuts. The peanuts alone had no effect.
“Babies are exposed to environmental allergens in dust in a home. They may not be eating food allergens as a newborn, but they are getting them on their skin.
“Say a sibling with peanut butter on her face kisses the baby. Or a parent is preparing food with peanuts and then handles the baby,” Cook-Mills said.
Further, the team found that infant wipes delivered compounds through the skin by using soap.
The top skin layer is made of lipids (fats), and the soap in the wipes disrupts that barrier, Cook-Mills explained.
The neonatal mice with the mutations had normal-appearing skin, and the dry itchy skin of dermatitis did not develop until the mice were a few months old, the equivalent of a young adult in human years, the research showed.
After the neonatal mice received three to four skin exposures of food and dust allergens for 40 minutes during a two-week period, they were given egg or peanut by mouth.
The mice had allergic reactions at the site of skin exposure, allergic reactions in the intestine, and severe allergic food reaction of anaphylaxis that is measured by decreased body temperature, Cook-Mills said.
(With IANS inputs)