A new study conducted by researchers at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Australia has revealed that infants with food allergies are at an increased risk of developing asthma and diminished lung function at older ages.
The team delved into the relationship between food allergies confirmed through challenges in infancy and the subsequent onset of asthma and poorer lung health during childhood. In other words, the researchers sought to understand whether food allergies in early life could be a precursor for respiratory issues later in childhood.
The research involved the monitoring of 5,276 infants who participated in the HealthNuts study, and skin prick tests were used to identify prevalent food allergens such as eggs and peanuts. Afterward, the children underwent oral food challenges to verify the presence of food allergies.
Once the children were 6 years old, they were then retested using the same methods, in addition to undergoing lung function tests.
The findings revealed that, at 6 years old, 13.7% of the children who had participated in the study had received asthma diagnoses. The likelihood of developing asthma was almost four times greater among children who had food allergies during infancy compared to those who did not.
This risk also increased further for children whose food allergies persisted until the age of 6. Moreover, those with food allergies were also more prone to experiencing slower lung growth.
“This association is concerning given that reduced lung growth in childhood is associated with health problems in adulthood, including respiratory and heart conditions,” explained Rachel Peters, an associate professor from Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.
“Lung development is related to a child’s health 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.”
A 15-year-old boy named Zane, who currently deals with both asthma and food allergies to peanuts, sesame, and eggs, participated in the study. His mother, Suba Slater, detailed how, at the time of her son’s diagnosis, she was unaware of the relationship between food allergies and asthma.