National Asthma Council

Food allergies in Infancy shown to be linked to childhood asthma and lung issues

A groundbreaking research conducted by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute has revealed that babies with food allergies are more likely to develop asthma and experience reduced lung function as they grow older. This study, published in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, highlights the importance of monitoring respiratory health in children with food allergies.

The researchers followed 5,276 infants from the HealthNuts study, subjecting them to skin prick tests and oral food challenges to identify food allergies. At six years of age, these children underwent further food allergy and lung function tests. The results were alarming: 13.7% of the children had been diagnosed with asthma, and those with a food allergy were nearly four times more likely to develop asthma compared to those without such allergies. The impact was particularly significant for children whose food allergies persisted to age six.

Associate Professor Rachel Peters, leading the study, emphasised that the association between food allergies and respiratory problems is concerning. Poor lung growth in childhood can lead to health issues in adulthood, including heart and respiratory conditions. She also pointed out that children with food allergies might experience slower growth, which could explain the link between food allergies and lung function. Additionally, similar immune responses are involved in both food allergies and asthma, further strengthening the connection.

This research highlights the importance of monitoring the growth of infants with food allergies and seeking professional guidance from dieticians to ensure healthy development. Food allergies affect 10% of babies and 5% of children and adolescents, making this issue significant for many families.

Suba Slater, a parent of a child with food allergies and asthma, shared her experience, stating that she was not well-informed about the connection between food allergies and asthma before her son’s diagnosis.

“As a newborn, he developed eczema on his back, and I thought because I was breastfeeding, there was something in my diet causing the rash,” she said. “We took him into hospital for tests, which confirmed the multiple food allergies. Looking back, he most likely had asthma long before we could hear him struggling with his breathing. ”

If she had known, she would have sought medical help much earlier. Suba’s son, Zane, participated in food challenges at the Murdoch Children’s, which helped him tolerate certain foods better, but his asthma sometimes complicated the process.

Professor Shyamali Dharmage from Murdoch Children’s and the University of Melbourne emphasised that the findings would aid clinicians in providing better patient care and increasing vigilance in monitoring respiratory health. Children with food allergies should be managed by clinical immunology or allergy specialists for ongoing care and education.

This research can potentially improve medical practices and ultimately benefit children’s health across Australia.