Infant Food Allergy Linked to Lung Deficits and Asthma by Age 6

By Cailin Conner - Last Updated: September 22, 2023

According to a study published in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, having a food allergy during infancy correlates with the development of asthma and diminished lung function in later childhood. The investigation was led by Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Australia. The researchers reported that this study is the first to examine the relationship between confirmed food allergies during infancy and the subsequent development of asthma and compromised lung health in later childhood.

“Food allergy is considered a precursor to asthma in the context of the atopic march, but the relationship between infant food allergy phenotypes and lung function and asthma in childhood is unclear,” wrote the investigators.

The study aimed to investigate the connection between food sensitization and challenge-confirmed food allergy during infancy, alongside the persistence and resolution of food allergies up to the age of 6, and the potential impact on the risk of encountering lung function impairments and asthma by the age of 6.

The researchers employed a longitudinal, population-based cohort study of 5276 infants and children aged 1 year who participated in immunization sessions between 2007 and 2011. At age 1, all participating children underwent skin prick testing for 4 common food allergens (egg, peanut, sesame, and dairy) and an oral food challenge for egg, peanut, and sesame. Parents completed questionnaires regarding their child’s allergy history, demographics, and environmental exposures. These children were then followed up at age 6 for further assessments.

The researchers classified the participants into various food allergy phenotypes, including food-sensitized tolerance, food allergy, persistent food allergy, transient food allergy, and late-onset food allergy. They then investigated associations between these phenotypes and lung function measures (eg, forced expiratory volume [FEV1], forced vital capacity [FVC], FEV1/FVC ratio, forced mid-expiratory flow [FEF25–75%]) and the risk of developing asthma.

Nearly 14% of children were diagnosed with asthma before age 6. By age 6, infants with food allergies (not sensitized tolerance) at age 1 showed decreased FEV1 and FVC. Transient egg allergy was linked to reduced FEV1 and FVC. However, persistent egg allergy had no significant association. Both transient and persistent peanut allergies correlated with reduced FEV1 and FVC, and late-onset peanut allergy related to decreased FEV1 and FVC. Persistent and late-onset peanut allergies showed higher asthma risk.

“Food allergy in infancy, whether it resolves or not, is associated with lung function deficits and asthma at age 6 years,” the investigators concluded, “Follow-up studies of interventions to prevent food allergy present an opportunity to examine whether preventing these food allergies improves respiratory health.”

Source: Lancet Child & Adolescent Health

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