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ENGLEMED HEALTH NEWS - 27/6/08

Childhood stress raises allergy risk

Friday June 27th, 2008

Major distressing life events put children at a increased risk of allergy and asthma, new research suggests.

Family break-up and moving house are among the most traumatic events that can trigger allergy, researchers found.

This is because major changes have a direct effect on the immune system, according to German experts.

The researchers took blood samples from 234 six-year old children to measure levels of a stress-related hormone called VIP and immune markers such as IL-4. Children with separated or divorced parents showed particularly high VIP levels, as did those who had recently moved house.

Not all sad life events seemed to trigger the same reactions.

Severe disease, parental unemployment and death of a family member led to "no remarkable changes", say Dr Gunda Herberth of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig, Germany, and colleagues.

They believe that "as tragic as these events are, they are obviously however of less significance for the stress reactions of children than for example a separation or the divorce of parents".

Full details are published in the journal Pediatric Allergy and Immunology.

The researchers explain that it is widely believed that major events influence the development of allergies.

They write: "Stressful life events evidently have an impact on development of allergic diseases, but the mechanism linking stress to pathological changes of immune system function is still not fully understood.

"VIP might be a mediator between stressful life events and immune regulation," they add, because it influences the behaviour of the immune system.

The results "provide valuable indications as to what exactly happens to the body through stress", they conclude.

Herberth, G. et al. Relation between stressful life events, neuropeptides and cytokines: an epidemiological study. Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, published online February 25, 2008.

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Tags: Allergies & Asthma | Child & Adolescent Health

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