Wet wipes are very convenient and come in handy, but they can cause food allergies in children, scientists have warned in a new study.
According to the study, the soap in wet wipes, when not rinsed off, make babies vulnerable to allergy-causing chemicals.
A mix of genetic as well as environmental factors causes food allergies in children, states the study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. These include genetics that alters skin absorbency, and environmental factors such as dust and food, and wet cleaning wipes that leave soap on the skin.
"This is a recipe for developing a food allergy. It's a major advance in our understanding of how food allergy starts early in life," Joan Cook-Mills, lead author of the study and a professor of allergy-immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told EurekAlert.
Relying on clinical evidence, the researchers identified food and environmental factors that cause allergy in children with certain genetic mutations. They then carried out tests where they exposed neonatal mice with similar genetic mutations to allergens like peanuts, but the latter did not have any effect by itself.
"Then I thought about what are babies exposed to. 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," she said.
After reading studies on skin research, she realised that wet wipes too could be an allergy-causing factor. "I thought oh my gosh! That's infant wipes!"
She explained to EurekAlert that the top layer of the skin is made of fats and the soap laden wipe disrupts this barrier.
It is, however, possible to avoid food allergy from developing by making some early changes at home.
"Reduce baby's skin exposure to the food allergens by washing your hands before handling the baby. Limit use of infant wipes that leave soap on the skin. Rinse soap off with water like we used to do years ago," Cook-Mills advised.