About 5 million children in the US are living with food allergies, and research shows the number of cases is on the rise. Researchers are determined to find out what is causing the uptick—and how to prevent it.
A recent study led by National Jewish Health published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice found that allergies might be linked to a child’s date of birth.
Here’s why: Many childhood allergies start with dry, cracked skin, which can lead to a number of allergic diseases known as the atopic march. It begins in infancy with eczema and leads to food allergies, asthma and hay fever later on in baby’s first years. Jessica Hui, MD, a pediatrician at National Jewish Health and lead author of the study said the atopic march likely has to do with bacteria on the skin and how it affects the skin barrier. Children born in the fall were found to be more likely to experience the atopic march, and it might be due to the bacteria on their skin when they were first born.
“When food particles are able to penetrate the skin rather than being digested, the body sees them as foreign and creates antibodies against them, which causes the child to become allergic,” Dr. Hui said. “We think if we can intervene at a very young age, even right after the baby’s out of the womb, then potentially that’s a way for us to try to stop the development of this atopic march.”
Researchers at the National Jewish Health in Denver, Colorado, are currently conducting a clinical trial to see what factors might be contributing to babies’ weakened skin barriers. They’re enrolling pregnant women and following their children through the first year to determine what might be causing the increase in symptoms, from environmental factors to medications. Expectant mothers under the age of 50 can enroll their newborn in the paid clinical trial, and travel expenses might be reimbursed.
Hopefully, new studies like this one can determine how to prevent little ones from developing allergic diseases once and for all.