July 19 (UPI) -- Babies with eczema have a high risk of developing asthma, food allergies and hay fever later in life, a study says.
To avoid this, parents can use a "soak and seal," method to moisten a baby's skin and prevent cracks, according to new research published in Science Magazine.
"Allergic diseases are linked with skin barrier dysfunction being one of the earliest features of allergic disease and correction of skin barrier dysfunction provides an opportunity for prevention," Donald Leung, who runs of Pediatric Allergy & Clinical Immunology at National Jewish Health and study author, told UPI.
People with healthy skin can retain moisture and repel external allergens. But those with eczema don't have the proteins and lipids on the outer layer of their skin to protect their bodies. So when the water leaves their skin and causes it to dry out, which brings on itching and cracking.
Leung says this erosion can lead to food particles penetrating cracks in the skin, which in turn activate food allergies along with asthma and other allergies.
The soak and seal technique can lower this risk, he said. It starts with putting a baby in warm bath, then applying ointment to the infant to seal in moisture.
"Children and families affected by food allergies must constantly guard against an accidental exposure to foods that could cause life-threatening allergic reactions," NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., said in a news release on eczema in February.
In another study, children with a form of eczema known as atopic dermatitis in combination with food allergy were found to have a thin top layer of skin. Those kids are more likely to lose skin moisture and develop Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, researchers say.
Since a baby's skin is more prone to drying out right after birth, Leung suggests providing immediate care of an infant's skin to avoid eczema and other allergic diseases.
"There are currently no cures for allergic disease. The greatest promise lies in the prevention of allergic diseases," Leung said.