By Andrea K. Walker
6:15 PM EDT, June 18, 2012
Soap, toothpaste and mouthwash may fight germs, but it also could make your child prone to allergies, new research has found.
Common antibacterial chemicals in these products may affect development of the immune system making children more likely to develop food and environmental allergies, the research from Johns Hopkins Children's Center found.
Researchers analyzed data from a national health survey of 860 children ages 6 to 18. They compared urinary leves of antibacterials in each child to preservatives found in personal hygiene products. Levels of IgE antibodies - immune chemicals high in people with allergies - were also examined in the blood of each child.
"We saw a link between level of exposure, measured by the amount of antimicrobial agents in the urine, and allergy risk, indicated by circulating antibodies to specific allergens," lead investigator Dr. Jessica Savage said in a statement.
The findings more than likely show that antibacterials and preservatives don't cause allergies, but may influence immune system development.
The research may back up the belief that more kids have food and environmental allergies because they are not getting early childhood exposure to common pathogens, which help build healthy immune responses.
Missing out on that exposure can lead to an overactive immune system that misfires against harmless substances such as food proteins, pollen or pet dander, the researchers said.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health published online and in the print version of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.