(CBS Local) -- A new study has revealed that baby wipes may be part of a "perfect storm" which can trigger childhood food allergies.
Researchers from Northwestern University say that a combination of genetics, allergens in dust, food choices, and the effects of infant cleansing wipes on the skin are all part of a package that triggers allergies. "It's a major advance in our understanding of how food allergy starts early in life," lead author Joan Cook-Mills said in a press release.
The researchers found that up to 35 percent of children with food allergies experience skin inflammation (atopic dermatitis) that may be caused by gene mutations which reduce the skin's barrier against allergens. Cook-Mills says the top skin layer is made of lipids (or fats) and the wipes disrupt that barrier.
The allergy-immunology professor explains that baby wipes leave soap on the skin which alters a child's skin absorbency. "They may not be eating food allergens as a newborn, but they are getting them on their skin."
The report, which will be published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, urges parents or anyone working with children to wash their hands before handling an infant. The team from Northwestern also advises adults to use baby wipes sparingly and to rinse off the excess soap those wipes leave behind with water.
According to the CDC, four to six percent of children in the U.S. suffer from food allergies. From 1997 to 2007 food allergy cases rose by 18 percent among children in the country.
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