New research suggests that children may be sensitised to peanuts not only through the stomach and intestines (by eating peanuts) but through the skin.
The research showed that if you applied peanut proteins to broken skin in mice you could interfere with the process by which their systems normally learn to tolerate peanut when it is eaten. If this is also true for humans it might mean that low-level skin exposure (such as applying oils containing peanut protein to inflamed eczematous skin) might actually sensitise some children to peanut. This would not account for all cases of peanut sensitisation but could be of
relevance for children already suffering from eczema. Avoiding any skin contact with peanut might reduce the risk of sensitisation.
Epicutaneous exposure to peanut protein prevents oral tolerance and enhances allergic sensitisation. J Strid, J Hourihane, I Kimber, R Callard, S Strobel. Clin Exp Allergy 2005;35;757-766.
First published in January 2006
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