'Atopic March' Starts In Infancy, Leads To Food Allergies, Asthma, Hay Fever

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Food allergies, it turns out, often start in an unlikely place: the skin.

More than five million children have food allergies and a new study finds the time of year a baby is born may put them at higher risk for a lifetime of dangerous allergic reactions.

CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reports babies born in the fall seem to be at a higher risk.

What starts as eczema can set off a chain of events that may progress to food and pollen allergies, even asthma.

Five-year-old AJ Grady has always has eczema but, when he developed hives as he started eating solid food, his mother suspected it wasn’t just about his skin.

“He had eczema pretty much from birth, so just the combination of the two things really, kind of, clued us in to that he had a food allergy,” said Jessica Grady.

AJ’s allergies to milk and citrus are part of a common chain reaction known as the “atopic march.” It starts in infancy with eczema and leads to food allergies, asthma and hay fever.

“The skin barrier is quite disrupted in kids with eczema and even our kids with a food allergy. The skin is actually a way for different microbes and even food allergens to get into our body,” said Dr. Jessica Hui of National Jewish Health.

MORE: Coronavirus Or Allergies? Doctor Explains Difference Between Symptoms

Studies at National Jewish Health in Denver found that one of the risk factors is being born in the fall – September, October and November babies are at higher risk.

A new clinical trial with pregnant women and following their babies through early childhood will try to determine why fall babies seem to have weakened skin barriers and, more importantly, find ways to stop the atopic march.

“We think if we can intervene at a very, very, very young age, even right after the baby’s out of the womb, then potentially that’s a way for us to try to stop the development of this atopic march,” said Dr. Hui.

That intervention could include introducing allergenic foods early in life and lots of moisturizing creams and ointments to seal and keep the skin barrier intact, preventing allergens from getting into the body and setting off the atopic march.

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