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Do Allergies Develop in the Womb?

by Dominique Vanier, B.Sc.H., M.Env.Sc., on 24 January 2017, Allergies
womb

If you find yourself with a chronic sore throat and mucous trickling from the back of your nose to your mouth, you may be suffering from allergies.

Some researchers believe that environmental exposure to risk factors, such as tobacco smoke and air pollution, may have an impact on the development of allergies as early as in the womb!

Allergies can be a mild nuisance, leading to frequent visits to the drug store for tissues and sinus-relief medications, and can also pose a life-threatening risk for some individuals.

Sometimes the exact onset of allergies is unclear. It takes a variety of “strikes” to switch on a gene that results in allergies – environmental exposure, family history, lifestyle, and urbanization, to name a few – that can happen over an indeterminate length of time.

20-25% of Canadians suffer from seasonal allergies

Chances are, you have several friends or family members that suffer from seasonal allergies. A large part of the Canadian population experience seasonal allergies, impacting approximately 20-25% of Canadians. Similarly, seasonal allergies affect 10 to 30 per cent of the population worldwide.

Unfortunately, the most common indoor and outdoor triggers of seasonal allergies can be very hard to avoid. While seasonal allergies differ from person to person, avoiding everyday elements such as trees, grass and weed pollen, mould spores, dust mites, and even dander from household pets can pose a big challenge.

Seasonal allergies can make your head feel like it will burst. You may feel like you are simply coming down with a cold, but over time the symptoms of seasonal allergies establish a pattern and frequently reappear. Common symptoms include runny nose, watery eyes, itchiness and nasal congestion, and even difficulty concentrating on daily tasks. If you feel that your allergies are causing brain fog, irritability and even depression, you may in fact be correct.

Breastfeeding and childhood allergic disease

Interestingly, there may be an association between breastfeeding and childhood allergic disease. A systematic review by Acta Paediatrica conducted on 89 clinical trials concluded that there is a weak association between breastfeeding and reduced likelihood of developing allergic rhinitis (the medical term for seasonal allergies) in children under age 5.

Some families, however, are just more likely to develop seasonal allergies no matter how many protective and preventative behaviours or mechanisms they take. Indeed, genetic factors do play a large role in determining an individual’s susceptibility to developing seasonal allergies.

Do allergies develop in the womb?

A new area of research is evaluating whether allergies can occur in the womb. Some studies hypothesize that a mother’s environmental exposures during pregnancy, such as diet, toxin exposure, and nutrient intake, may be able to indirectly influence the immune system (and allergy) programming in babies who have a strong family history of allergies.

Lifestyle and diet

Fortunately, if you suffer from seasonal allergies, there are some lifestyle and diet modifications you can take which may provide you with some relief:

  • Allergy-proof your home. Reducing exposure to allergens such as dust and dander can help reduce symptoms. Allergy-proofing your mattress can be achieved by using special dust- and mite-proof mattress and pillow covers. Sheets should be washed once a week at high temperatures to kill dust mites and eggs. If you have carpets, you will want to consider using washable area rugs or removing carpet and using hardwood or linoleum flooring instead.
  • Skip morning outdoor exercise. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, it is important to be selective with physical activity. If you prefer to exercise outdoors, try exercising indoors or at the gym to avoid pollen counts, which are at their highest in the morning.
  • Use a HEPA filter. A high-efficiency particulate arrestor (HEPA) filter is a type of mechanical air filter that traps harmful allergens in a fine mesh, removing airborne particles that can contribute to allergy symptoms. Adding a HEPA filter to your home is an effective method to allergy-proof the air.
  • Symptomatic relief. You may find some relief by taking Allergy Relief, which may help with congestion and sneezing attacks.
  • Support your immune system through diet. Eating a healthy diet can help keep inflammation and the immune system in check, which may make a difference in how you feel. Ensure to eat daily fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, and fish to help nourish and support the body.

It is important to work with your primary healthcare provider to develop a good treatment plan that can help you reduce your symptoms, breathe easier, and feel better.

References:
http://www.aaia.ca/en/allergy_season.htm
http://www.aafa.org/page/allergy-facts.aspx
https://aacijournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1710-1492-8-7
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26192405
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26011578
http://www.webmd.com/allergies/features/7-day-menu-for-spring-allergy-season
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1661616/
http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1001611
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3736369/

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