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Spring pregnancy linked to food allergy

Wednesday October 20th, 2010

The season in which a woman begins her pregnancy may be linked to the development of food allergies, researchers said today.

Finnish researchers say their findings indicate that a child whose first three months of foetal development ends in April or May is three times more likely to be sensitised to milk and eggs than those who reach this stage of development in November or December.

Their study, published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, looked at just under 6,000 children born between 2001 and 2006. They all lived in one area of Finland.

Just under 1,000 were tested for sensitisation to food allergens up to the age of four years and they found the likelihood of a positive test result rose sharply during the first year of life.

Up to the age of four, the incidence of an allergic response to certain foods varied according to season of birth, ranging from five per cent for children born in June/July to 9.5 per cent for those born in October/November.

About one in ten youngsters, whose 11th week of development in the womb was during April or May, were sensitised to food allergens. This compared with a rate of six per cent among children who reached that stage of foetal development in December/January.

Readings of pollen for the years in question showed that levels of birch and alder pollen peaked during April and May, according to the researchers, led by Dr Kaisa Pyrhönen, Institute of Health Sciences, University of Oulu, Oulu.

Previous research has already suggested that children born in autumn or winter are more prone to eczema and wheeze, and that they have higher levels of circulating antibodies to allergens than children born in spring or summer.

This might be because the foetus begins to produce antibodies to allergens at about the 11th week of development, and antibodies to specific allergens by around 24 weeks, the authors suggest.

Season of first trimester of pregnancy predicts sensitisation to food allergens in childhood: a population based cohort study from Finland Online First J Epidemiol Community Health 2010; doi 10.1136/jech.2009.105411.

Tags: Allergies & Asthma | Child Health | Childbirth and Pregnancy | Diet & Food | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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