Food allergies are the worst in my opinion. Of course, that could be because I love to eat and the thought that I might not be able to eat a certain food or food group makes me downright cranky. My sister is lactose intolerant, which isn’t quite a food allergy, but it’s close enough in my opinion. However, there are some other food allergies that can be way more than just inconvenient, like peanut and seafood allergies. These could be serious or even deadly threats to children and adults.
Food allergies develop very early in children, and a recent study suggests that infant eczema may actually cause children to develop more food allergies than normal. The link between eczema and food allergies in infants has actually been known for some time, but a new study conducted by King's College London and the University of Dundee has revealed more information about the link and how it causes the allergies to develop.
The study was published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology and its main point was to further prove that the skin is an important barrier in preventing food allergies and that food allergies could develop through immune cells in the skin rather than in the stomach.
According to the National Eczema Association, most cases of childhood eczema start within the first 6 months of life and is typically found in infants that come from families with a history of eczema, asthma, and hay fever. Studies done in the past on this subject have shown that skin barrier defects, like eczema, do not adequately protect against environmental allergens. In the new study, it was found that infants with eczema were more than six times more likely than health infants to develop allergies to foods like eggs, cow’s milk, and peanuts.
The study involved over 600 infants three months old who were exclusively breastfed. Breastfeeding was an important part of the study because none of the infants had ever ingested solid food. This suggested that active immune cells in the skin, rather than the stomach, could play an important role in food sensitization.
The infants were examined for eczema and their skin was tested to see how much water it was able to retain. The infants were also screened for gene mutations that are typically associated with eczema. After these initial tests, the infants underwent a series of skin prick tests to see if they were sensitive to the most common food allergies. It was found that the infants with eczema showed the most sensitivity to the food allergens with eggs being the most common. Also, it was found that the worse the eczema, the stronger the sensitivity was.
The study partially resolves the belief that most allergens are caused from the inside out, rather than the inside in. Also, it doesn’t mean that breastfeeding or formula is more likely to make your infant develop certain allergies.
- Carsten Flohr, Michael Perkin, Kirsty Logan, Tom Marrs, Suzana Radulovic, Linda E Campbell, Stephanie F MacCallum, W H Irwin McLean, Gideon Lack. Atopic Dermatitis and Disease Severity are the Main Risk Factors for Food Sensitization in Exclusively Breastfed Infants. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 2013; DOI:10.1038/jid.2013.298
- King's College London (2013, July 19). Eczema may play a key role in the development of food allergy in infants, study suggests. ScienceDaily.
- Eczema Association . (n.d.). Infant and toddler eczema. National Eczema Association.