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Food allergy in infancy may cause asthma & poor lung function later

IANS Jan 23, 2024

Having a food allergy as a baby is linked to asthma and reduced lung function later in childhood, according to a study.

The research, led by Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, found that early-life food allergy was associated with an increased risk of both asthma and reduced lung growth at six years of age.

The study involved 5,276 infants, who underwent skin prick testing for common food allergens, including peanut and egg and oral food challenges to test for food allergy. At six years, children were followed up with further food allergy and lung function tests.

The results, published in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, showed that by six years of age, 13.7 per cent reported a diagnosis of asthma. Babies with a food allergy were almost four times more likely to develop asthma at six years of age, compared to children without a food allergy.

The impact was greatest in children whose food allergy persisted to age six as opposed to those who had outgrown their allergy. Children with a food allergy were also more likely to have reduced lung function.

Food allergy in infancy, whether it was resolved or not, was linked to poorer respiratory outcomes in children, said Rachel Peters, Associate Professor at Murdoch Children’s.

“This association is concerning given that reduced lung growth in childhood is associated with health problems in adulthood including respiratory and heart conditions.

“Lung development is related to a child’s height and weight and children with a food allergy can be shorter and lighter compared to their peers without an allergy. This could explain the link between food allergy and lung function. There are also similar immune responses involved in the development of both food allergy and asthma.

“The growth of infants with food allergy should be monitored. We encourage children who are avoiding foods because of their allergy to be under the care of a dietician so that nutrition can be catered for to ensure healthy growth,” Peters said.

The findings would help clinicians tailor patient care and encourage greater vigilance in monitoring respiratory health, said Murdoch Children’s and University of Melbourne Professor Shyamali Dharmage.

Children with a food allergy should be managed by a clinical immunology or allergy specialist for ongoing management and education.

Professor Dharmage said clinicians and parents should also be vigilant for asthma symptoms in children with food allergies because poorly controlled asthma was a risk factor for severe food-induced allergic reactions and anaphylaxis.

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