Researchers find link between baby wipes, eczema and food allergies

Baby wipes, eczema, and food allergies? A new study by researchers at Northwestern University looked at why eczema might make it more likely for children to develop food allergy after using baby wipes.

“I have to be careful about the products I use in my home, soaps, washing detergents, and things like that, even down to the sprays,” says Stephanie Harper, a mother of three.

A recent study suggests that wet wipes might be contributing to food allergies in children.

“I usually use the natural ones, because they're so allergic to everything,” Harper said.

“It's more interesting to allergists, because it explains to us, a potential mechanism for why kids who have eczema may be more likely to develop a peanut allergy,” said Jay Portnoy with the Division of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology at Children’s Mercy Hospital.

Portnoy said the study is more educational, than something to be alarmed about.

“The real bottom line is, if you use baby wipes, you can wipe food off of your baby, but don't use it so aggressively that you abrade the skin and cause damage, because once the skin is abraded, and the damage has occurred, then the baby may absorb food into their skin,” Portnoy added.

The study done by researchers at Northwestern University raises the question about why there's an increased risk of food allergies, particularly in peanut allergies, in children who have eczema.

“What investigators did was they took mice, they abraded their skin with a detergent called SDS -- it`s the same kind of detergent that`s in your shampoo,” Portnoy said, "and they did that four times a day, and then they exposed the skin to food, mainly peanut and egg, and then later on, they fed these foods to the mice, and the mice developed rashes.”

For families who have children with eczema and allergies, it's studies like this one that remind them to be extra cautious.

“I have to be very careful. I've gotten really good at not cross contaminating different things, because this one might be allergic to something, and this one isn't or vice versa,” Harper said.

Portnoy said baby wipes are designed to be gentle and said it's unlikely to cause the abrasion this study showed in mice.