Findings of a new study reveal that skin exposure is a significant contributor to skin allergies.

The study was conducted by researchers from The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The researchers found that skin exposure to food allergens increased the level of "sensitization" which makes the skin more reactive to an antigen. This increases with repeated exposure. Previous studies have established that kids first become allergic when exposed to peanut proteins through breast milk or in house dust. However, this new study adds skin exposure to the list of culprits that make a child allergic to peanuts.

"The peanut protein responsible for most allergic reactions in humans is seen as foreign or dangerous by the immune system of the skin," said Cecilia Berin, PhD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in a press statement. "Blocking those immune pathways activated in the skin prevented the development of peanut allergy in the mice, and our next step will be to confirm this in humans."

For the study, researchers exposed mice to peanut protein extract on the skin and observed that repeated topical exposure to peanut allergens led to sensitization and a severe, whole-body allergic reaction upon a second exposure. The researchers observed that peanuts are allergenic due to inherent components the lead to a more robust immune response.

"This research helps us to understand why peanut, out of the many foods in our diet, is such a common cause of food allergy," said Berin. ." If we identify how the immune system recognizes peanut as a danger, we may eventually learn how to block that pathway and prevent the food allergy altogether."

Findings of the study were published online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The project was funded by the Food Allergy Research and Education.