The mystery surrounding the seemingly sudden rise in food allergies over the last couple of decades might finally have some light shed on it. According to a new Northwestern Medicine study, which was just published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, a perfect storm of factors must coexist to result in an allergy forming.
The factors that must all be present for a food allergy to emerge include “the genetics that alter 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. Food allergy is triggered when these factors occur together,” according to Science Daily.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 4-6 percent of children in the United States are affected by food allergies. Even more alarming is the fact that the number of children under the age of 18 who are affected has risen 18 percent from 1997 to 2007.
In order to arrive at the findings, the clinical research revealed that 35 percent of children with food allergies “have atopic dermatitis and much of that is explained by at least three different gene mutations that reduce the skin barrier.” When the top layer of skin, which is made of lipids (or fats), gets disrupted by soaps or baby wipes, a baby might be exposed to food allergens that are being transferred through contact, such as a sibling with peanut butter on his face kissing the baby, or a parent cooking food and then picking the baby up.
One way to reduce the risk of developing food allergies is to rinse potential food allergens off the hands before handling a baby, and rinsing baby’s skin of soap residue (including that from baby wipes).