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Food Allergies and Eczema-perhaps It’s the Bed

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic itchy skin rash that usually begins in infancy. It first appears on the cheeks as a red scaly patches and later involves the wrists, elbow and knees. Atopic dermatitis can be quite extensive and sometimes persists into adulthood. In children under two, it is associated with food allergies in about eighty per cent of those affected. According to our current understanding of how allergies begin, an initial exposure to a food allergen is required to make an individual “sensitized”. When evaluating a food allergic infant with atopic eczema, the mystery is when and where does the sensitization occur. Infants do not consume the common food allergens such as peanuts, eggs or milk to which they are allergic. Even infants exclusively fed cows-milk formula, allergies to egg, peanuts and milk eventually develop. Food proteins from the mothers diet can pass to the child from breast milk. Since exclusively formula-fed babies developother food allergies, this excludes breast milk as the primary source of exposure. Tests on the blood of newborn infants also indicates they are not born with food allergies. Two new lines of research may now offer clues to the route of food sensitization. Several years ago, it was discovered that people with atopic eczema have a defect in the skin that may allow food proteins to cross the skin, and trigger allergic sensitization. A new study out of Europe has found significant levels of various food proteins, using extremely sensitive tests, 

including peanuts, wheat, cod, egg and soy, in the beds of young children. Thus it is possible that the bed is a source of allergen exposure, with food allergens subsequently crossing the skin leading to allergic sensitization. Further studies are needed to confirm these findings, but they raise interesting possibilities about the beginnings of food allergies. In the interim, be certain to wash the bedding at least once weekly and do not allow food into children’s rooms.