Study links baby wipes to food allergies in children
Baby wipes are one of the mummy must-haves we can't do without. But can they really cause food allergies? Find out what this new study claims, below.
Baby wipes are a must-have essential for most mums. Besides their primary purpose, which is cleaning baby's nappy area, baby wipes are very convenient for a host of other things — especially cleaning up after the kids after meals. However, a new study is asserting that baby wipes and food allergies are closely linked.
Over the past decade or so, there has been a rise in the number of kids who develop food allergies. So far, there have not been any conclusive studies as to how food allergies start or how they can be cured.
So for years, researchers have ventured to give parents a clearer picture of how to protect kids from food allergies. A past study has explored the role of genetics (and even personality) in developing allergies. While another study explored how those whose siblings have food allergies are less prone to developing it.
Baby Wipes and Food Allergies: What's the Connection?
Now, researchers from Northwestern University are adding their own scientific findings to the mix. They claim to have found a recipe that triggers food allergies. The ingredients? Dust, genetics, food, and — get this — baby wipes. Yes, the mum essential you keep handy to make sure your kid stays clean can cause allergies.
How Was the Study Conducted?
- Researchers tested their theory on newborn mice. They first exposed the mice to peanuts, which is one of the most common food allergens. But there was no reaction.
- Then, they altered the mice's skin top layer by exposing it to ingredients found in baby wipes. They also altered their genes so that they'll develop a skin barrier dysfunction.
- Next, they exposed the mice's skin to food and dust for 40 minutes over a period of two weeks.
- After this, they were given egg and peanuts, both common allergens.
- They found that only the mice with altered skin layers showed skin allergies, intestinal allergies, and even anaphylaxis.
While further research needs to happen to confirm exactly what the food-allergy triggering point is, these findings take us one step closer to finding the answer.
Key Takeaways of the Study for Mums and Dads
1. Babies are often exposed to food allergens on their skin
Environmental allergens in the home aren't just dust.
"They may not be eating food allergens as a newborn, but they are getting them on their skin," explains Cooks-Mills in a statement. "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."
2. Some children with food allergies also have atopic dermatitis
Researchers referred to a past study that found 35 percent of children with food allergies also have atopic dermatitis. Because of this condition, their genetics make their skin barrier weak.
3. Baby wipes can change the top layer of the skin
With prolonged, frequent use, baby wipes can alter the top layer of a baby's skin. But those at risk for baby wipes and food allergies are those with eczema.
The study found that constant use of baby wipes is not the only cause of food allergies. But it is a combination of genetics (skin condition) as well as environmental factors, like leaving soap residue on baby's skin.
So how can parents lower the risk of this 'perfect storm' of allergies?
- Wash hands thoroughly before carrying or handling the baby.
- Don't use soapy baby wipes too much.
- Rinse soap thoroughly with water.
- Keep your home clean and free of dust and other allergens.
- Introduce new foods one at a time and consult your doctor if you have any qualms about them.
Mums and dads, it's always better to know the symptoms of a food allergy. You should watch out for:
- Facial tingling or itching in the mouth
- Hives, itching or eczema
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue, throat, or other parts of the body
- Nasal congestion
- Difficulty breathing
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea or vomiting
If you suspect your child is allergic to certain foods, bring them to the paediatrician immediately. You can also consult a doctor for possible allergy tests to know for sure. Just now that it is rarely done on babies under six months of age.