Olive Oil is for eating, not moisturising!

Natural care is the best that we can aim for our children. However, sometimes a little knowledge helps us direct this most effectively.

When we rub food oil emollients into a baby’s skin, we may be raising the risk of increasing food sensitisation.

The Dual Allergen Hypothesis proposes that food protein allergens are tolerated if regularly eaten, however when these same allergens are applied to the skin they may become a risk for food sensitsiation.

When eczema creams used to contain arachis oil (or peanut oil to you and me!), there was an increased risk of the child developing peanut allergy. These days, only Zinc and Castor Oil nappy cream contains peanut oil in the UK, however it indicates that food oils may be risky for our babies.

When Dr Perkin assessed how babies were moisturised at three months of age on the EAT Study, he showed that daily moisturising raised the risk of developing food allergy from one year of age. The hypothesis is that even though our emollients do not routinely contain food oils, the moisturising process is picking up environmental food proteins that are ubiquitous at home, and these are then being rubbed into the babies skin.

There are several take home messages from these data;

  • Moisturise your baby only when and if you feel this is beneficial to his / her skin barrier
  • Avoid food-based moisturising oils and creams
  • Parents should clean their hands from food protein before moisturising their baby
  • Moisturising should probably be undertaken away from the kitchen
  • Emollients may best be applied after a bath, when parents’ hands and baby’s skin is likely to be clean

This is only likely to be a risk early in childhood, and there is no evidence to suggest a measurably effect children who are already over one year of age.

Furthermore, this is the first study to show significant findings in this way, and so corroboration across other countries and cohorts would be an important step towards our understanding this risk factor more.

However, in the meantime, moisturise sensibly, and perhaps keep the olive oil for eating!

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