Kids with sensitive skin may be allergic to oats

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Children with skin allergies may be allergic to oat proteins commonly found in skin products, study findings suggest.

A farmer carries a sheaf of newly harvested oats October 3, 2007. Children with skin allergies may be allergic to oat proteins commonly found in skin products, study findings suggest. REUTERS/Stringer

Of 302 children seen at a pediatric dermatology unit in Bordeaux, France, nearly one third had a positive skin reaction to oats, report Dr. Franck Boralevi, at the Hopital Pelligrin-Enfants, and colleagues.

The researchers used skin patch tests and skin prick tests to determine the sensitivity to oat proteins among children, ages 4 months to 15 years old, with eczema. Also referred to as atopic dermatitis, eczema is a chronic skin disorder that causes scaly and itchy rashes.

Overall, 32.5 percent of the children were sensitive to oats, study investigators report in the medical journal Allergy. Skin patch tests showed oat sensitivity among 14.6 percent, while skin prick tests identified oat sensitivity among 19.2 percent of those tested.

Hospital-based oral food challenges, completed by 32 of the 98 children who tested positive for oat sensitivity, further identified 16 percent with sensitivity to oat meal.

None of the parents of these children suspected an oat allergy in their child. Previous history taking and clinical examinations also had not identified these allergies, the researchers note.

Of the children who were tested with oat protein allergy by repeatedly applying oat cream to a skin area previously unaffected by atopic dermatitis, 28 percent developed eczema or other skin eruptions.

Three quarters of all of the children had been previously treated with oat-containing emollients. Thirty-two percent of these children who used skin produces containing oat previously tested positive on the skin patch tests.

The investigators suspect the repeated application of oat-containing skin products appears to be associated with oat sensitization in this study population, the investigators report.

Boralevi and colleagues also found that the percentage of children with positive skin patch reactions decreased with age, a finding that is in accordance with previous studies, they note.

The researchers suggest that oat-containing skin products be avoided in children younger than two years old.

SOURCE: Allergy, November 2007.