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With food allergy rates on the rise among American children, everyone from nutritionists to pediatricians and even product development companies are looking for solutions. But a new study contains insight that could help parents prevent allergies, and it involves those wet wipes many of us use dozens of times each day.


The study offers “a major advance in our understanding of how food allergy starts early in life,” says lead study author Joan Cook-Mills, a professor of allergy-immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

According to the research to be published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, a mix of environmental and genetic factors mix together to trigger the development of an allergy in a child.

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More specifically: The researchers say the use of “infant cleansing wipes that leave soap on the skin” can contribute to the development of food allergies among children who are genetically predisposed to altered skin absorbency. And since our children’s “skin absorbency” isn’t a trait easily recognizable to parents, the researchers say the easiest solution is to cool it with those wet wipes.

“Reduce baby's skin exposure to the food allergens by washing your hands before handling the baby,” says Cook-Mills in a press release. “Limit use of infant wipes that leave soap on the skin. Rinse soap off with water like we used to do years ago.”

For the study, Cook-Mills and a team of researchers considered the fact that an estimated one-in-three children with food allergies also has eczema—which they hypothesized said something about the connection between children’s skin barriers and a predisposition to allergies.

As for how this barrier is commonly disrupted, Cook-Mills says, “I thought oh my gosh! That's infant wipes!”

“Then I thought about what are babies exposed to,” Cook-Mills says. “They are exposed to environmental allergens in dust in a home. They may not be eating food allergens as a newborn, but they are getting them on their skin. 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.”

Testing their theories on neonatal mice models with skin barrier mutations, the researchers found “skin barrier dysfunction was necessary for food allergy to develop in the mice.”

The researchers say the findings offer promise for possibly blocking the development of food allergies among children. And, for now, we parents may want to stick with soap and water rather than all those wet wipes.

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I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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My husband and I always talked about starting a family a few years after we were married so we could truly enjoy the “newlywed” phase. But that was over before it started. I was pregnant on our wedding day. Surprise!

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