What Causes Common Allergies in Babies?
There are countless allergy triggers. Some of the more well-known ones include:
- Genetic preload
- Smoking / tobacco smoke
- Pollutants in the room air
- House dust / dust mites
- House pets / Animals
- Exaggerated hygiene
- Exposure to other children and the outdoors
Despite allergies being commonplace, there are preventative measures you can take to manage their onset and symptoms. Read on to find out more.
The tendency to allergies is an aspect of health that is inheritable. Children with a parent or sibling who suffer from allergies are at an increased risk of allergies1. If both parents from allergies, the risk of the child increases.
However, this should not be a cause for concern. Increased risk does not mean that your child will inevitably develop an allergy later on. The sooner you know whether your child is actually at risk of allergies, the sooner and more effectively you can prevent it. It is best to discuss it with your pediatrician or during pregnancy with your gynecologist. A so-called family history, where your doctor collects all relevant information about illnesses, is currently the best way to predict a possible allergy risk.
Smoking / tobacco smoke
Smoking and inhalation of secondhand smoke are not only harmful to the lungs and the respiratory tract, the tobacco smoke also promotes the development of allergies, especially allergic asthma (bronchial asthma). Avoid smoking during pregnancy and after childbirth, and preferably provide a smoke-free environment for children in and outside their own home.
An allergy can be triggered by spores of a mold2. In case of mucous membrane contact, i.e. after inhalation or consumption, the allergic person reacts with colds, coughing and sneezing. Unfortunately mold fungi are present almost everywhere. They grow best where it is moist and warm, and organic nutrients are available. For example: on food, wallpaper, upholstery and curtains, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, basement and garden. You can prevent it by keeping rooms well ventilated to ensure a cool (not cold) and dry indoor climate. Avoid having constantly tilted windows, heavy curtains in front of the windows or many indoor plants as these can increase the humidity indoors and promote the growth of mold. A good investment to consider is the purchase of a humidity meter that indicates if the room humidity reaches a critical value.
Pollutants in the room air
Pollutants in the home can increase the risk of allergies through the indoor air. When buying new furniture and floor coverings, paints, varnishes or cleaning agents, it is best to pay attention to the information on environmental compatibility. Regular ventilation in the apartment also helps to minimise the burden of indoor pollutants.
House dust / dust mites
The house dust allergy is triggered by mites3, or rather the fecal particles of these arachnids, which mix with the dust in the house. Dust is a part of our lives and are not harmful to healthy people. However, they are the most common indoor allergen and can cause the allergic respiratory disease asthma (bronchial asthma) or atopic dermatitis. Keeping the house clean with regular vacuuming, airing, mopping the floors and washing of bed linen and stuffed animals is usually sufficient.
House Pets / Animals
Animal hair allergy, in addition to pollen and house dust mite allergy, is another one of the most common types of allergies and can lead to atopic dermatitis or asthma4. However, the name "animal hair allergy" is misleading: the allergy cause is not the animal hair itself, but animal foreign matter, such as from their saliva or the sweat. If you are considering keeping an animal, it is best to consult with your doctor or pediatrician if you have a familial allergy risk.
It sounds paradoxical, but it’s true: too much hygiene can promote the development of allergies in children. There are fewer allergic diseases worldwide in regions with lower standards of hygiene than in western industrialized countries. The reason: A strong immune system needs training at a young age. It has to have the chance to get to know and to deal with a wide variety of exogenous substances from an early stage. This also explains why children who live in close contact with animals or on a farm seem less prone to allergies. Playing in the dirt does help children be less susceptible to overreaction of the immune system. The best prevention is not to overdo it when cleaning your home - contact with natural environmental germs, bacteria and other agents, i.e. allowing your child to be exposed to the world, would help to build their immune system.
Exposure to other children and the outdoors
In order for the immune system to develop healthily, it requires encounters with bacteria and other pathogens. These can be through contact with other children, or exposure to the outdoors. Let your child interact with other children as often as possible. Bring them outdoors to play in nature and breathe in the fresh air. The foundation for a strong immune defense is laid in early stage of life - for a whole life. A strong immune system can better ward off allergies.
1. Malaysia Allergy Prevention (MAP) Guidelines for Healthcare Professionals. 2014. Appendix 2: Family History of Allergies & Risk Grading, page 26.
2. Allergy UK. (n.d.). Improving Your Indoor Air Quality. Retrieved from https://www.allergyuk.org/information-and-advice/conditions-and-symptoms/320-improving-your-indoor-air-quality
3. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. (2018). Dust Allergy. Retrieved from https://acaai.org/allergies/types/dust-allergy
4. European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation. (2016). Animal Hair Allergy. Retrieved from https://www.ecarf.org/en/information-portal/allergies-overview/animal-hair-allergy/
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