Babies have naturally soft skin but there are times when it may be necessary to apply lotion as a moisturizer. Researchers in London have discovered that practice may need some scrutiny as the more a baby is exposed to lotion the more likely they will develop a food allergy.
Parents of the children in the study were asked how often they used moisturizers on their baby’s skin and what products they used. The report published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology stated each additional moisturization per week at three-months-of-age resulted in a 20 percent increase in the likelihood of developing an allergy.
Scientists from St George's, University of London and King's College London found their conclusions were consistent even when skin conditions like eczema, which is considered a form of allergy, were taken into account. The trial included more than 1,300 infants and built on a previous study of nearly 1,400 babies that showed applying moisturizers was not effective in preventing eczema.
Researchers said moisturizers are effective in easing the symptoms of skin conditions but more work is needed to understand the link between their use and the triggering of allergies.
"This study does not say that parents should stop moisturizing their children,” said Dr. Michael Perkin from St George's, University of London. “The results have raised concerns that there may be something in the act of moisturizing that could raise the risk of food allergy development, but we need further work to establish why this might be the case.
“In the meantime, we recommend that parents wash their hands before moisturizing their babies as a precautionary measure,” Perkin added. “Of course, if children have skin conditions, such as eczema, treatment guidance from their GP, allergist or dermatologist should still be followed."
No conclusions were made why there was a correlation between moisturizers and allergies but experiments on animals have shown there is a possible sensitization to allergens that can occur by exposure to the skin.
Professor Carsten Flohr, from King's College London said, "Further research is now required to understand the exact mechanisms behind why more regularly moisturized infants appear to be at a higher risk of developing food allergies and strategies to prevent this from happening then also need to be developed."