Hygiene Study Supports Association of Eczema and Skin Infections with Food Allergies


A study recently published in Allergy and Asthma Proceedings investigating the relationship of hygiene to food allergy lends more credence to the association between eczema and skin infections to the development of food allergies later in life.

The study, conducted at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, was designed to evaluate aspects of the “hygiene hypothesis” which asserts that early exposure to germs helps prevent food allergy by changing aspects of the immune system. The study looked at factors such as number of siblings, antibiotic use, infection history, pet exposure, child care exposure, and maternal–child factors in the development of food allergy.

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Dr Ruchi Gupta
Dr Ruchi Gupta

“Our results do support the hygiene hypothesis showing that increased number of siblings is protective for food allergy,” said lead author Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH, pediatrician and researcher at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “The association of food allergy with early skin infection and eczema, however, might shed some light on how food allergies develop. Our findings support the hypothesis that food sensitization might start with exposure through the skin. This might have implications for prevention of food allergies.”

Of 1359 children evaluated in the study, 832 (61.2%) had food allergy, and 406 (30%) had asthma. In the adjusted analysis, the prevalence of food allergy was increased by 12% if there was a history of skin infection and 89% with a history of eczema. The prevalence of asthma was increased by 60% with a history of respiratory syncytial virus infection and 54% with a history of eczema.

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A greater number of siblings were associated with a 21% decrease in the prevalence of food allergy and an 18% decrease in the incidence of asthma. Owning a cat was associated with 36% decreased prevalence of asthma.

A unique strength of this family-based study is that it included siblings who may or may not have had allergies. The similar genetic makeup of the subjects and controls helped the authors assess the impact of different exposures on food allergy and asthma.


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Dave Bloom
Dave Bloom
Dave Bloom is CEO and "Blogger in Chief" of SnackSafely.com.

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  1. This article was very weird.. I often thought that, since I recently acquired Celiacs Disease, it made me think about when I was about 12 yrs old, I had excema, on both hands, so bad, I couldn’t hold a pencil.. I could do nothing that came in contact with harsh liquids, cuz my hands burned constantly, from anything that my hands touched.. I was in constant pain, & I cried a lot.. I was so ashamed of my hands.. Then later that year, I started breaking out with the worst case of acne, on my face..
    What was nature thinking..?? I was a teenager.. My face & hands were important at this age..
    And now, at my advanced age, I have Celiacs disease.. Since 2008.. It took a long time to figure this out, cuz doctors just are not educated enough to LISTEN WELL, to their patients, without criticism..! Maybe the people have some good ideas…
    I started to notice a correlation between my hands breaking out, to the sudden affects of the Celiacs Disease, were related…
    There are some foods that will have some Gluten, and they don’t post it on the label..
    We who have this dreaded disease, live and breath labels.. I even dream about labels..! But when my hands break out, and lately my legs, accompanied by the “obvious” affects of Celiacs, you just KNOW there was Gluten in your food.. Someone did put it on the label…
    So I am do frightened by the fact that my Grandson has a Dangerous Firm of Peanut Allergy..
    He came very “Close” a couple times.. So now he’s under strict orders, and he complies, TGAT he Can NEVER, eat cupcakes, cookies, cakes, or anything, unless it says on the labels, DOES NOT CONTAIN PEANUTS..!!
    Or unless his Mother, ( my daughter) has read the label, and tells him he may eat it..!
    The allergies of the parent, mostly skips a generation, and then come in a different form..
    No one got my Celiacs Disease, but my Grandson, who is a Genius, (tested) was born with a deadly form of Peanut Allergy..!!
    It’s strange, I noticed, that most of the children who were born with the most HORRIBLE forms of Allergies, were also born with some form of Genius..
    So what I’m thinking is, God took one thing away from these children, and HE gave them a very Special Creative Outlet of a kind of Genius aspect, for them to use when in great stress from the Allergy… And that in itself is A Form Of Genius…!!!?


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