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Fact Check Time: Do Wet Wipes Cause Allergies?

Oct 10, 2018 12:00AM ● By Brian Saucedo

By Kelsey Casselbury

If anyone doubts that food allergies are a real problem, then just take a look at the numbers: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the prevalence of food allergies in children increased by 50 percent between 1997 and 2011. It’s estimated that around 15 million people suffer from food allergies. This includes 5.9 million children—that’s equal to one in 13—and averages out to two children with food allergies in every classroom in America.

It’s no surprise, then, that researchers are hard at work in trying to determine what causes food allergies. It’s long been a mystery, but a study out of Northwestern Medicine indicates that it could be a mix of both genetic and environmental factors that must coexist to trigger the allergy into forming. The study looked closely at baby wipes that contained sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), which sparked a number of provocative headlines in the media claiming that baby wipes cause food allergies. 

Well, that’s not really the case (and a great reminder to always take a deeper look into what the study actually says, rather the hype around the study). The research, published in Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, was done on mice—not humans. It offers additional evidence for scientists’ current thought process that skin exposure to certain compounds could play a role in the formation of food allergies. This is truly important and a big step forward in unraveling the true cause of food allergies—but, unfortunately, not an answer to the mystery.