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Allergy

22 December 2019

Indoor pollutants may raise allergy risk in toddlers

A new study examined toddlers' exposure to dogs, cats, air fresheners, candles, mould, environmental tobacco smoke and carpet, all of which have been associated with childhood allergies.

Toddlers have an increased risk of allergies if they are exposed to multiple indoor pollutants in their first years of life, a new study finds.

It included 108 mother-child pairs. Researchers assessed exposures to various household pollutants such as pet dander and tobacco smoke while the women were pregnant, then when children were aged six months, one year and two years.

Multiple exposures

A skin prick test was performed on both the mothers and their children when they were two to measure allergic sensitivity. The study was published recently in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

"Because most children are exposed to more than one pollutant or allergen, we examined the relationship between multiple exposures and allergic sensitisations at two years of age," said study co-author Mallory Gallant, from the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

"We examined exposure to dogs, cats, air fresheners, candles, mould, environmental tobacco smoke [ETS] and carpet, all of which have been associated with childhood allergies," she explained in a journal news release.

"Of the exposures we measured, prenatal exposure to candles, six-month exposure to cats and two-year exposure to ETS significantly increased the chance of a positive skin prick test at two years of age," Gallant said.

Children more vulnerable

Allergic sensitivity means that a person has or may have had an allergic type immune response to a substance. But it doesn't necessarily mean that the substance causes them problems.

"The increase in the average amount of time indoors means there is an increased risk of harmful health outcomes related to exposure to indoor air pollutants," said study co-author Dr Anne Ellis, also from Queen's University and a member of the Environmental Allergy Committee at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

"Additionally, children breathe more frequently per minute than adults, and mostly breathe through their mouths. These differences could allow for air pollutants to penetrate more deeply into the lungs and at higher concentrations, making children more vulnerable to air pollutants," Ellis said in the release.

Image credit: iStock

 

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Dr Morris is the Principal Allergist at the Cape Town and Johannesburg Allergy Clinics with postgraduate diplomas in Allergology, Dermatology, Paediatrics and Family Medicine dealing with both adult and childhood allergies.

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