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Family stress may raise allergy risk

Tuesday December 13th, 2011

Raising children in a low-stress environment may help prevent the development of allergies, Swedish researchers have reported.

A new study has tested the theory by measuring stress hormones in infants.

The Swedish researchers studied some 200 children, finding that high levels of cortisol hormones were linked to increases in risk of allergy and eczema of between 30 and 60 per cent.

Stress in the evening was linked to increased risk of food allergy.

In Sweden up to 40 per cent of children have some kind of allergy.

The researchers say the findings follow on from an earlier study of families who follow the "anthroposophic" lifestyle, associated with the philosopher and educationalist Rudolf Steiner.

This showed a reduced rate of allergies among school-aged children of these families.

Researcher Dr Fredrik Stenius, of the Stockholm South General Hospital, said: "Psychosocial factors and the stress hormone cortisol are associated with allergic diseases.

"Our study found that children with low salivary cortisol levels as infants have a lower prevalence of allergies during the first two years of life, compared to other children."

Salivary cortisol levels and allergy in children: The ALADDIN birth cohort. Stenius F, Borres M, Bottai M, Lilja G, Lindblad F, Pershagen G, Scheynius A, Swartz J, Theorell T, Alm J. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, December 2011 Dec;128(6):1335-9

Tags: Allergies & Asthma | Child Health | Europe | Mental Health

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