Woman Develops Severe Food Allergy After Using Skin Cream

in Milk & Egg
Published: June 19, 2014
Food allergy can develop from using skin cream with food allergens on broken skin.Thinkstock

Using creams with food-based ingredients on broken skin could cause a new, severe food allergy to develop, concludes a case report published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, a publication of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

“Application of these “natural” products containing food allergens to eczematous skin may lead to a severe allergic reaction when the food is eaten subsequently,” Dr. Robyn O’Hehir, one of the authors of the report, told Allergic Living.

The scientific article notes that a 55-year-old woman experienced first-time anaphylaxis to goat cheese after weeks of using a moisturizer containing goat’s milk on her eczema-affected skin. She had never reacted to goat products before. The scientists then confirmed the food allergy with blood testing.

This is not the first report of a skin product suspected of causing a severe food allergy, but the authors believe this is the first time that laboratory tests have been used to confirm that a skin cream was the cause of the sensitization.

While it’s important for eczema sufferers to keep their skin well-hydrated, patients should take care to apply moisturizer to intact skin only, “with the specific prescribed medicinal ointments applied to the broken, inflamed skin,” advises O’Hehir, who is director of the department of allergy, immunology & respiratory medicine at Monash University in Australia.

O’Hehir also notes that such so-called natural creams are unlikely to cause any problems or severe food allergies for most people with unbroken skin.

One big concern is the fact that in the United States and Canada, unlike packaged foods, cosmetic products don’t have to conform to strict guidelines for labeling of allergenic ingredients. The AAAAI warns that flavors, fragrances and trade secret ingredients do not currently have to be listed on cosmetics.

Aside from goat’s milk, O’Hehir notes that food-based ingredients in cosmetics can include nut oils, soy milk, cow’s milk and oats. Other sensitizing agents include lanolin (from sheep’s wool), fragrances, plant extracts and cinnamon extracts in toothpaste. She says these products should be used with caution, and that a patient should stop their use if symptoms of a severe food allergy arise, and follow up with a doctor.

“Our strong message to all patients, and especially those with eczema, is to choose and use bland skin care products, avoiding those that contain food,” says O’Hehir.

The case report is available here.