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Soap may be causing food allergies in babies

Soaps and detergents could be responsible for the rise in the prevalence of food allergies.

Melbourne researchers are looking into the possibility that early childhood exposure to soaps may be causing food allergies to develop later on.

Dr John Ainsworth, lead researcher and paediatrician from Epworth’s Centre for Paediactric Allergies, said lifestyle factors are likely to blame for the food allergy epidemic.

“We’re really looking at those lifestyle factors that have changed over about one or two generations,” he told 3AW Breakfast.

Researchers believe artificial soaps strip the skin of natural oils, inflaming the skin and breaking its protective barrier.

Babies are then exposed to food through their inflamed skin, and when they are reintroduced to these foods months later an immune response is triggered.

About 20 per cent of babies develop itchy skin inflammation, and more than a third of them go on to develop food allergies.

Dr Ainsworth said more research is needed to prove the theory, but an aspect of modern life is certainly to blame for rising allergy prevalence.

“There’s something in the way we live now that has really set us up for this allergy epidemic.”

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