Does your birthday affect whether or not you’ll have allergies?
Allergies are a major cause of illness in the US, affecting as many as 50 million people, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
Although our genes control many factors in our lives, from how we look to potential health problems we may develop, they are not the only contributing factor when it comes to allergy development.
In fact, recent research at the University of Southampton discovered that your birth season is associated with your risk of developing allergies later in life. The study specifically focused on epigenetics, any process that changes gene activity without changing the DNA sequence itself.
Researchers discovered that DNA methylation, an epigenetic mechanism, can occur based on one’s birth season and is still present 18 years later.
“These are really interesting results. We know that season of birth has an effect on people throughout their lives,” said Professor John Holloway, author of the study. “For example, generally, people born in autumn and winter are at increased risk for allergic diseases such as asthma. However, until now, we did not know how the effects can be so long-lasting.”
Although the study may sound like a health horoscope, the coauthor Dr. Gabrielle Lockett advises future parents not to alter pregnancy timing to avoid clinical implications.
In the future, researchers plan to focus more on why the different seasons lead to altered disease risks and what specific aspects like temperature, sunlight levels or diets play a role.
Dr. Kimberley Dilley, a pediatrician at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill., offers some advice for parents who are worried about their child’s allergies. She warns that although allergy testing is an option parents can utilize to determine their child’s risk, the testing is not always very reliable.
“If a family has seen an allergic response that follows a specific exposure, such as a bee sting or food, then allergy testing may be beneficial in children older than two years,” says Dr. Dilley. “Examples of allergic responses that are cause for concern include widespread hives accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting, swelling of the face and airways, causing difficulty breathing.”
If your child is displaying symptoms of milder allergies with unknown triggers, it is not usually helpful to perform an allergy test because they may test positive for some allergens, but they may not be the actual cause of the allergic reaction, explains Dr. Dilley. If you suspect certain allergies based on clear symptoms, Dr. Dilley suggests working with a reputable allergist to consider the best approach, which often involves skin testing.
If you discover that your child does have allergies, Dr. Dilley offers these solutions about managing their condition:
- For some allergies, shots are available that can reduce allergy symptom occurrence over time.
- Serious allergies, such as food or bee sting allergies, can only be managed by avoidance and ensuring emergency medication is available in case of accidental exposure.
- For seasonal and other allergies that cause discomfort to your eyes or nasal passages, daily medication during the allergy season is often the best solution. Most of the medications, such as nasal steroid sprays and oral antihistamines, are available over-the-counter and in appropriate formulations for both children and adults.
About the Author
Tiffany Nguyen, health enews contributor, is a public affairs and marketing intern at Advocate Support Centers in Downers Grove, IL. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University with a degree in public health. She is currently pursuing a Master’s in Business Administration focusing specifically on healthcare management at Lewis University. Tiffany enjoys hanging out with her friends, exploring new restaurants, and binge watching Netflix shows.