Researchers investigating peanut allergies that affect one in 100 children have discovered a possible link with skin products containing peanut oil used for treating eczema.

Researchers investigating peanut allergies that affect one in 100 children have discovered a possible link with skin products containing peanut oil used for treating eczema.

Nine out of 10 youngsters with the allergy have also suffered from the skin condition, which leaves it dry and blistered, according to scientists from London's St Mary's Hospital and Bristol University.

The researchers believe the skin products made with nut oils may be causing the reaction and a higher than expected number of cases in children.

Dr Gideon Lack, of St Mary's Hospital, said: "In eczema, the skin barrier breaks down and there is an abundance of immune cells in the skin that could be exposed to substances that cause allergies. We are currently looking into whether exposure of the skin to products containing peanuts or peanut oils may be responsible for starting allergies."

An allergy to peanuts is the most common cause of fatal allergic reactions to food. The research was based on a 10-year study of children in South-west England. The scientists enrolled 14,000 pregnant women in 1991 and have monitored their children's health since then.

Doctors had previously suspected the number of children allergic to peanuts had been rising because pregnant women were eating them and exposing their babies in the womb, or through breast milk. Pregnant women, especially those with other allergies, had been advised not to eat peanuts.

However Dr Lack said their study had not shown a link between eating peanuts during pregnancy and the allergy. "The Department of Health may need to reconsider guidelines in light of our findings," he said. But he said many current eczema creams did not contain peanut oil and urged people not to stop their treatment without consulting their doctor.

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