A WA study has revealed that babies exposed to sunlight in their first three months are less likely to develop eczema than those with less sun exposure.
The Telethon Kids Institute study also added to a growing body of research suggesting vitamin D supplements are not effective in preventing allergies in babies.
Researchers set out to test whether vitamin D supplements in infants with a family history of allergy made a difference to their development of eczema — an early hallmark of allergic disease.
They gave 97 babies daily supplements and 98 a placebo and measured sunlight exposure in both groups.
The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, suggests bottled vitamins are no match for sunlight in eczema prevention.
Babies who were given supplements from birth to six months had increased vitamin D levels but were no better off than infants who took a placebo.
But babies who were exposed to direct sunlight were more likely to avoid eczema.
Senior author Debbie Palmer said the study was the first to show a link between higher direct sunlight exposure in early infancy and less eczema development by six months.
“It is important because we need to try and reduce the increasing incidents of allergies in our community,” Dr Palmer said.
One in five babies has eczema and one in 10 has a food allergy.
Researchers said parents should keep giving their babies prescribed supplements and continue to be cautious when exposing infants to direct sunlight while more research is done. Two-year-old Felix was signed up to the study at birth and, much to the relief of his mother Emma Snelgar, is showing no signs of allergies.
Ms Snelgar ’s first child Ollie had an egg allergy and severe eczema on his face as a toddler, which she battled to control.
“Trying to get antihistamines down a one-year-old’s throat after he’s had a reaction, when you can see his face going more and more red and he’s trying to fight you, is not fun,” she said.
“Considering what some other families go through, that is really nothing so I think to be able to help is important.”