Soap Can Protect Those With Peanut Allergies

But hand gels don't, researchers say

TUESDAY, May 11, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Good news if you're allergic to peanuts -- most soaps and household cleaners will remove enough allergen from hands and dining surfaces to prevent an attack.

However, dishwashing liquid and alcohol-based hand sanitizer left trace amounts of peanut allergen on hands and tables, says a study by Johns Hopkins Children's Center in the May issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Doctors found the failure of hand sanitizer most troubling, since many teachers find it more convenient to use the gel rather than sending children to the bathroom to wash up.

"Their use may not really remove the allergen, but just spread it around," pediatric allergist Dr. Robert A. Wood said in a prepared statement.

In the study, researchers applied a teaspoon of peanut butter to the hands of 19 allergy-free volunteers. Hand wipes, liquid soap, bar soap, plain water and a hand sanitizer were tested, with only the sanitizer failing to remove the allergen.

Researchers also compared the performance of plain water, dishwashing liquid, Formula 409 cleaner, Lysol sanitizing wipes and Target-brand household cleaner with bleach in removing peanut butter from a clean table. Only dishwashing liquid failed.

"It's possible that dish soap creates a film over eating surfaces, making it difficult to clean underneath," Wood said. "But our results suggest that even if a child licked the table vigorously after it had been cleaned with dish soap, he probably still couldn't get enough allergen to cause a reaction."

More information

The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network has more about food allergens.

SOURCES: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, news release, May 8, 2004
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