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Does the Birth Month of a Child Affect the Development of Food Allergies?

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Updated April 14, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: Does the Birth Month of a Child Affect the Development of Food Allergies?
Answer: A 2010 study actually examined this very question -- whether or not the time of year a child is born puts him at increased risk for allergic disease, namely food allergies. It may sound unbelievable, but the results did in fact show that the time of year in which someone was born could have an influence.

Some Background

Over the past 50 years or so, the rates of all types of allergic diseases have been on the rise, including food allergies. There are different thoughts to why we’re seeing these increases, with the hygiene hypothesis -- that our ultra-clean environment is affecting our immune systems -- being a possible explanation.

Numerous recent studies have also shown an increase in the rate of various allergic diseases in people living in northern latitudes, which is thought to be due to lower amounts of sun exposure as compared to others. This reminds us of the importance of vitamin D, which has many beneficial effects on the immune system, including protecting against allergies.

So How Does Birth Month Factor In?

Researchers involved in the 2010 research studied children who visited the emergency room with various manifestations of food allergies, such as anaphylaxis, urticaria and eczema. They found that young children (under the age of 5) with food allergy symptoms were 50% more likely to have been born in the fall or winter months.

The study participants were from the Boston. Presumably, children from this area who were born during the fall or winter months (or their mothers) have lower levels of vitamin D due to the decreased amount of sun exposure that's common in the Northeast during these seasons. This may increase their risk of food allergies. This risk may also apply to other allergic diseases, including eczema, allergic rhinitis and asthma.

The Bottom Line

I’m not sure that this study means that a couple at risk for having children with allergies should necessarily time the birth of their child for the summer months. However, the take-home message is that vitamin D from natural sun exposure is likely required for the healthy development of a child’s immune system.

Remind yourself to turn off the TV or computer and get outside, and encourage kids to do the same. Ask your doctor if vitamin D supplements may also be a wise choice for you.

Learn out more about the vitamin D deficiency and allergies and asthma.

Source:

Vassallo MF, Banerji A, Rudders SA, Clark S, Mullins RJ, Camargo CA. Season of Birth and Food Allergies in Children. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2010;104:307-13.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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