According to a new study, infants and toddlers can also suffer more nasal allergies, particularly if their parents have a history of the condition.
Infants are known to suffer from certain allergies, such as food allergies; however, there have been questions about whether allergic reactions to airborne irritants such as dust mites, pet dander and mold start as early as the first 12 months of life.
The major reason for this uncertainty is the fact that it is hard to identify whether the baby’s runny, stuffy nose is due to a cold or other respiratory infection, or a possible allergy.
The study, which appeared in the journal Allergy, was conducted by a group of researchers led by Dr. Isabelle Momas of Paris Descartes University and included parents of 1,850 18-month-old children. The researchers also obtained blood samples from the toddlers to check for biological indicators of a nasal allergy.
It was found that 9% of the participants had experienced symptoms related to nasal allergies, also known as allergic rhinitis, in the last 12 months. The conclusion was drawn from the parents’ statements that their children had had trouble with sneezing or a stuffed, runny nose even in the absence of a cold or the flu.
Compared to the toddlers with no such symptoms, these toddlers were also more likely to show certain biological markers of allergies. Nineteen percent had more than the normal amount of inflammatory immune-system cells known as eosinophils; that compared with 12% of toddlers whose parents did not report any allergy-like symptoms.
Additionally, 5.5% of children belonging to the former group had immune system antibodies to an inhaled allergen – mostly to house dust mites or cat dander. That compared with nearly 3% of the other participants.
“These results support the hypothesis that allergic rhinitis could begin as early as 18 months of life,” according to Momas and her colleagues.
The study also found that 44% of the children who had allergy-like symptoms had at least one parent with a history of nasal allergies, versus 35% of the other toddlers. After considering a number of other factors – such as parents’ income and smoking habits – researchers found that the chances of children having allergy-like symptoms doubled if both the parents had a history of nasal allergy.
According to Momas, if nasal allergies are suspected, children as young as six months can be treated with antihistamines, inhaled corticosteroids, and a medicine called cromolyn under the doctor’s direction.