Children who become allergic to peanuts before they eat them may have had early skin exposure which led to sensitization, a new study suggests.

Research published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation used mice to study the early stages of developing allergic reaction to foods, including peanuts.

The research team exposed the mice to peanut protein extract on the skin, and found that repeated exposure to peanut allergens led to sensitization, and even severe whole-body allergic reactions, according to a news release.

Past studies have identified peanut proteins in breast milk and house dust as possible factors in whether a child develops a peanut allergy, but researchers say this new data collected also adds skin exposure to the list.

“The peanut protein responsible for the most allergic reactions in humans is seen as foreign or dangerous by the immune system of the skin,” said Cecilia Berin, study author and associate professor of pediatrics at the Ican School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The team believes the data collected on the reaction in the skin may help develop future treatments for food allergies or preventive efforts.

“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 all together,” Berin said in the news release.

“Blocking those immune pathways activated in the skin prevented the development of peanut allergy in mice, and our next step will be to confirm this in humans,” she said.