Smokers increase risk of baby allergies

Parents who smoke near their baby are increasing its risk of developing allergies to a range of irritants, Swedish researchers claim.

Infants exposed to environmental tobacco smoke in the first few months of life were 28 per cent more likely to be allergic to inhalant or food allergens than those who were not exposed to secondhand smoke.

Findings come from a study of 4,089 families, for which parents completed questionnaires on environmental factors and symptoms of disease when the child was aged two months, one, two and four years old. Around 4 per cent of the children were exposed to tobacco from both parents.

Also, at age four, 2,614 children had blood collected and analysed for IgE antibodies to a range of allergens.

Researchers found a dose-response effect between exposure to parental tobacco smoking during the first few months of life and IgE sensitisation. The effect was particularly pronounced for cat allergens, increasing the risk by 96 per cent. Parental smoking also increased the risk a child who is sensitive to food allergens by 46 per cent.

However, no link was found between maternal smoking during pregnancy and sensitivity to allergens.

Thorax Online 2007

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