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July 28, 2021 01:06pm
By Jill Murphy, Associate Editor
Researchers believe the progression of allergies begins with eczema in infancy before progressing to food allergies, asthma, and hay fever later in childhood.
New research suggests that infants born in the fall may have a higher risk for allergic diseases such as eczema, food allergies, asthma, and hay fever.
Previous research has found that food allergies are on the rise, with approximately 2 children in each classroom now allergic to at least 1 food. Researchers at National Jewish Health aimed to discover the reason behind this increase, which showed that many allergic conditions likely start with dry, cracked skin, eventually leading to a chain reaction of allergic diseases known as the atopic march.
“We looked at every child treated in our clinic, and those born in the fall were much more likely to experience all of the conditions associated with the atopic march, said lead author Jessica Hui, MD, in a press release. “Now we are learning more about why that is and we strongly believe it stems from the bacteria on the skin and how they affect the skin barrier.”
According to the study authors, the atopic march typically begins in infancy with eczema and leads to food allergies, asthma, and hay fever in later childhood. Children with eczema often have high levels of the bacteria staph aureus on their skin, which weakens the skin’s ability to keep our allergens and pathogens, according to a press release.
“When food particles are able to penetrate the skin rather than being digested, the body sees them as foreign and creates antibodies against them, which causes the child to become allergic,” Hui said.
To further their research, the investigators are now conducting a clinical trial to examine a wide variety of factors that may contribute to this weakened skin barrier in infants. The study is enrolling pregnant women and following their children into early childhood to consider everything from environmental factors to genetics to medications taken and products used in the home.
“We think if we can intervene at a very young age, even right after the baby’s out of the womb, then potentially that’s a way for us to try to stop the development of this atopic march,” Hui concluded in the press release.
Potential solutions could include sealing the skin barriers of babies with eczema using wet wraps and lotions and introducing allergenic food early in life for children at risk of allergies.
Study Finds Fall Babies at Higher Risk of Lifetime of Allergic Diseases [news release]. National Jewish Health; September 9, 2020. http://njhealth.multimedia-newsroom.com/index.php/2020/09/09/study-finds-fall-babies-at-higher-risk-of-lifetime-of-allergic-diseases/. Accessed September 10, 2020.