Infants as young as 6 months old can become allergic to things they breathe in, bringing a stuffy nose, sneezing and other symptoms. In a new study of the environmental factors that might be involved, researchers at the University of Cincinnati found that exposure to more than 20 cigarettes a day was associated with an increased risk of developing such allergies by age one. Mold, another suspected culprit, didn’t increase the risk for allergy, but it did increase the risk of upper respiratory infections.
Researchers, supported by grants from NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, looked at 633 infants under 1 year old. They evaluated the impact of tobacco smoke, visible mold, pets, siblings, daycare attendance and breastfeeding practices on both allergy and upper respiratory infections.
They found that infants who are exposed to 20 or more cigarettes per day were almost 3 times more likely to have allergies to airborne compounds at age 1 as those who weren’t exposed. Infants living in high mold homes were over 5 times more likely to have upper respiratory infections than those who lived in homes where mold wasn’t visible. Infants with 2 or more older siblings actually had fewer allergy episodes in the first year. Race, gender, pet ownership and breastfeeding practices didn’t make any difference.
Some of these links have been reported before in older children and adults, but this is the first study to look at all these factors in infants under the age of 1. These findings highlight the importance of environmental exposures during the first year of life. Don’t smoke around your infants, and try to get rid of any mold in your house.
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