Two young sweethearts sat together in a swing on the front porch of a country home. The young man noticed the young woman had a tear running down her face. He said, “What’s the matter, my little darling? Don’t worry, I’ll kiss that tear away.” After doing so a few more times he said, “Is there anything I can do to stop those tears?” She replied, “No, it’s hay fever, but keep up the treatments, anyway!” All allergies are on the rise, but especially peanuts – with nut reactions having tripled in number since 1997. And this is significant because of the eight most common food allergies (eggs, milk, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, and peanuts) the latter, peanuts, are the deadliest with more than 30,000 emergency visits and 200 allergic deaths a year. Also add to the concern, the peanut allergy is primarily a North American problem. (The Chinese eat far more peanuts than we do with no allergy concern; the theory being we dry roast ours and they oil fry and/or boil theirs.) Now here’s what researchers know. Two percent of people are born with the genetic mutation that makes them prone to having a peanut allergy. (And it runs in families, with their offspring being fourteen times more likely to have the same.) But just because you have the gene doesn’t mean if you eat a peanut you are automatically going to go into an anaphylaxis state – a serious, life-threatening allergic condition, which if left untreated, will soon result in death. As a matter of fact, scientists are increasingly coming to believe that the ultimate answer to the peanut allergy may very well be to give each child a small quantity of peanut over time to allow the body to see that the nut is not an invasion disease (and therefore no need for its immune system to go into an attack mode). Kind of like needle immunization, but for the opposite reason. And early test group results seem to back up this thinking. In the meantime, allergists say here is the recipe for creating a food allergy in a child – number one (genetics that alter skin absorbency), number two (skin exposure to allergens in dust), number three (skin exposure to food from anyone handling an infant) and number four (the use of infant wipes that leave soap on the baby’s skin). The first two, adults cannot do much about, but with the last two something can be done. Let me begin with number four (the use of infant wipes that leave soap on the baby’s skin). Researchers at Northwestern University developed the peanut allergy gene in a group of mice. In the first group they cleaned the skin with infant wipes, leaving the resulting residue soap on for forty minutes a day over a two-month period. Then, the mouses’ skin was exposed to a peanut allergen and the rodents had an allergic reaction. In the second group they cleansed the skin with infant wipes, but then immediately followed up with removing the resulting residue soap with water. After a two-month period these mouses’ skin was exposed to a peanut allergen and the rodents did not have any allergic reaction. The head of the research group explained that any cleaning-agent left on a baby’s skin has a tendency over time to disrupt the protective lipids barrier on the top and allow allergens to penetrate below. This is especially so if the one picking up the baby has just come from handling food (like peanuts) themselves.
So allergists say on cleaning a baby – adults, use soap on yourself before and use water on them after. Wipes are fine, but should not be the last line of germ defense.