The risk of asthma is greater in babies of whom the mother is exposed to pollen

Babies born to mothers exposed to pollen during the last trimester may be at increased risk of developing respiratory diseases such as asthmasays an investigation. The findings showed that those born for grass pollen during the peak season had high immunoglobulin E (IgE) levels in umbilical cord blood – a marker that was used to predict the development of allergic diseases.

"We know that exposure to outdoor pollen during the first few months after birth can lead to allergic airway disease and we suspected that exposure during the later stages of pregnancy may also be important," said lead researcher Bircan Erbas, associate professor at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. "Many studies have shown that babies with high IgE levels in umbilical cord blood may develop allergies later in childhood, but little is known about how these levels are affected by exposure to pollen in the uterus."

However, the study published in Environment International also showed that being pregnant for a whole season of grass pollen can have a protective effect on babies. "We found that these babies had lower IgE levels, which was an important finding and suggests the potential development of a sensitization barrier," Erbas said.

Erbas stressed that the study did not suggest that all babies born during high pollen seasons would develop airway disease or other allergies. "The study provides new insights that could help us predict and control diseases such as asthma – which is a significant burden on public health, but it is important to remember that there are a number of factors that can determine who has asthma or allergies. This is a piece of the puzzle, "she explained

For the study, the team analyzed umbilical cord blood from hundreds of babies born in Melbourne, Denmark and Germany.

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First published: Sep 16, 2018 11:27 IST