What to do for baby seasonal allergies
Allergies occur when the body’s immune system reacts to a specific substance as though it’s harmful.
It’s not clear why this happens, but most people affected own a family history of allergies or own closely related conditions, such as asthma or eczema.
The number of people with allergies is increasing every year.
The reasons for this are not understood, but 1 of the main theories is it’s the result of living in a cleaner, germ-free environment, which reduces the number of germs our immune system has to deal with.
It’s thought this may cause it to overreact when it comes into contact with harmless substances.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction
Allergic reactions generally happen quickly within a few minutes of exposure to an allergen.
They can cause:
- wheezing and coughing
- a red, itchy rash
- a runny or blocked nose
- red, itchy, watery eyes
- worsening of asthma or eczema symptoms
Most allergic reactions are mild, but occasionally a severe reaction called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock can happen.
This is a medical emergency and needs urgent treatment.
How to manage an allergy
In many cases, the most effective way of managing an allergy is to avoid the allergen that causes the reaction whenever possible.
For example, if you own a food allergy, you should check a food’s ingredients list for allergens before eating it.
There are also several medicines available to help control symptoms of allergic reactions, including:
- lotions and creams, such as moisturising creams (emollients) – these can reduce skin redness and itchiness
- decongestants – tablets, capsules, nasal sprays or liquids that can be used as a short-term treatment for a blocked nose
- antihistamines – these can be taken when you notice the symptoms of a reaction, or before being exposed to an allergen, to stop a reaction occurring
- steroid medicines – sprays, drops, creams, inhalers and tablets that can assist reduce redness and swelling caused by an allergic reaction
For some people with extremely severe allergies, a treatment called immunotherapy may be recommended.
This involves being exposed to the allergen in a controlled way over a number of years so your body gets used to it and does not react to it so severely.
Getting assist for allergies
See a GP if you ponder you or your kid might own had an allergic reaction to something.
The symptoms of an allergic reaction can also be caused by other conditions.
A GP can assist determine whether it’s likely you own an allergy.
If they ponder you might own a mild allergy, they can offer advice and treatment to assist manage the condition.
If your allergy is particularly severe or it’s not clear what you’re allergic to, they may refer you to an allergy specialist for testing and advice about treatment.
Find out more about allergy testing
Substances that cause allergic reactions are called allergens.
The more common allergens include:
- latex – used to make some gloves and condoms
- medicines – including ibuprofen, aspirin and certain antibiotics
- food – particularly nuts, fruit, shellfish, eggs and cows’ milk
- dust mites
- insect bites and stings
- animal dander, tiny flakes of skin or hair
- grass and tree pollen – an allergy to these is known as hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
- mould – these can release little particles into the air that you can breathe in
- household chemicals – including those in detergents and hair dyes
Most of these allergens are generally harmless to people who are not allergic to them.
There’s something about the seasons
We are not advising women to change the timing of their pregnancy, but if we understood exactly what it was about birth season that causes these effects, this could potentially be changed to reduce the risk of allergy in children.
For example, if the birth season effect on allergies was found to be driven by sunlight levels experienced by the mom during pregnancy or breastfeeding, then the increased risk of allergies among babies born in autumn and winter might be lessened by giving the expectant or breastfeeding mom vitamin D supplements. You wouldn’t need to time births with the seasons to get the benefits.
Our study reports the first discovery of a mechanism through which birth season could influence disease risk, though we still don’t know exactly which seasonal stimuli cause these effects.
Future studies are needed to pinpoint these, as well as to investigate the relationship between DNA methylation and allergic disease, and what other environmental exposures own an effect.
With the considerable burden allergic disease places not only on individual sufferers but also on society, any step towards reducing allergy is a step in the correct direction.
An allergy is a reaction the body has to a specific food or substance.
Allergies are extremely common.
They’re thought to affect more than 1 in 4 people in the UK at some point in their lives.
They’re particularly common in children. Some allergies go away as a kid gets older, although many are lifelong.
Adults can develop allergies to things they were not previously allergic to.
Having an allergy can be a nuisance and affect your everyday activities, but most allergic reactions are mild and can be largely kept under control.
Severe reactions can occasionally happen, but these are uncommon.
We scanned DNA methylation (one type of epigenetic mark) profiles of 367 people from the Isle of Wight and found, for the first time, that the season in which a person is born leaves an epigenetic print on the genome that is still visible at the age of 18. This discovery means that these marks on the genome could be how season of birth is capable to influence the risk of having allergies later in life.
We went on to test whether these DNA methylation differences that varied by season of birth were also associated with allergic disease.
We found that two of them appeared to be influencing the risk of allergy in the participants. As well as allergies, other studies own shown that season of birth is associated with a number of things such as height, lifespan, reproductive performance, and the risks of diseases including heart conditions and schizophrenia.
It is possible that the birth season-associated DNA methylation that we discovered might also influence these other outcomes but this will need further investigation.
The marks that we found in the DNA samples collected from the 18-year-olds were mostly similar to the epigenetic marks found in a group of Dutch eight-year-olds that we used to validate our findings. But when we looked at another cohort – a group of newborn babies – the marks were not there.
This suggests that these DNA methylation changes happen after birth, not during pregnancy.