Colds and flu

Updated 05 February 2014

Pregnant moms' colds may cause asthma in offspring

Research indicates that the more colds and other viral infections a woman has during pregnancy, the more likely her child is to have asthma.

The more colds and other viral infections a woman has during pregnancy, the more likely her child is to have asthma, researchers report.

The new study included 513 pregnant women in Germany and their 526 babies. The mothers completed questionnaires during pregnancy, when the children were 3 months old, 12 months old and every year until the children reached age 5.

Read: Gene testing helps sort out bacterial and viral infections

The researchers concluded that a mother's level of exposure to viral infections and bacteria during pregnancy affect the environment in the womb, and therefore the baby's risk of developing asthma and allergies in childhood.

The study is published in the February issue of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

"In addition, these same children that had early exposure to allergens, such as house dust and pet dander, had increased odds of becoming sensitized by age 5," journal deputy editor Dr Mitch Grayson said in a journal news release.

Children affected before birth

"When dust mites from the mother and child's mattresses were examined, children with high dust mite exposure yet low bacteria exposure were more likely to be allergic to dust mites than those with low mite exposure and high bacteria contact," he added.

Of the families in the study, 61% had a parent with asthma, hay fever or eczema.

Read: Eczema in infancy predicts hay fever in childhood

According to Dr Michael Foggs, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, "We know that allergy and asthma can develop in the womb since genetics play a factor in both diseases."

But, he explained in the news release, "this study sheds light about how a mother's environment during pregnancy can begin affecting the child before birth."

Read more

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Foods you should avoid during your pregnancy

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Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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