Fertility and pregnancy * Babies and children * Healthy living * Allergies and hay fever

Autumn babies more likely to develop food allergies

Winter babies more likely to develop food allergies Also at higher risk of eczema

Babies born in the months of November and December are more likely to suffer from certain food allergies that babies born in the summer, according to a new Finnish study of nearly 6,000 infants.

The effect appears to be linked to the season in which the unborn baby completes its first three months of development - babies born in the winter will experience this period in the spring, when levels of certain pollens are at their highest.

About the study

Of the 6,000 babies, just under 1,000 were tested for sensitivity to food allergens between the ages of 0 and 4 years. In these cases the incidence of an allergic response to certain foods varied according to season of birth, ranging from 5 per cent for children born in June/July to 9.5 per cent for those born in October/November.

Around one in 10 children, whose 11th week of development in the womb had occurred during April or May, were sensitised to food allergens. This compared with a rate of 6% among children who reached that stage of foetal development in December/January.

Looking at specific food stuffs, the scientists found that a child whose first three months of foetal development ended in April or May was three times more likely to react negatively to milk or eggs than a baby reaching this stage in November or December.

Possible explanations

Earlier studies have shown 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.

The new study provides similar indications that there is some developmental effect at work. The authors suggest that this might be because the foetus begins to produce antibodies to allergens at around the 11th week of development, and antibodies to specific allergens by around 24 weeks.

The study is published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

This article was published on Wed 20 October 2010

Image © anna - Fotolia.com

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