Will the lockdown have an effect on our allergies?


Will the lockdown have an effect on our allergies?

The lockdown has been part of our lives for some months now. It’s eased up recently, but there are still restrictions on what you can do. And, depending on where you live, your lockdown might be more strict than somewhere else. Basically, life’s still a bit up in the air.

It makes you question how it affects our health. Are we doing less exercise, meaning we pile on the pounds? Or does the lack of traffic lead to less air pollution, meaning our lungs are breathing in cleaner air? It’s no doubt something researchers will be interested in for years to come.

Some are even looking at the lockdown’s effects on allergies. Over in Ireland, research is underway to see if it’s affecting our infants…

The study

Researchers from the department of paediatrics at Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI), along with some from Children’s Hospital at Temple Street in Dublin, will be looking into the effects of the lockdown on babies in relation to allergies.

Their thoughts centre around the lower rates of infections and improved air quality that have come from the lockdown. They are researching whether this makes developing allergies more or less common. The large-scale study will involve 1,000 babies born between March and May 2020.

Professor Jonathan Hourihane, Professor of pediatrics at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences is leading the study. He says allergic diseases like eczema, asthma, hay fever, and food allergies have become more common in the last 30 years. And – according to the NHS – he isn’t wrong. He says recent events provide a “unique scientific opportunity” to examine the origins of allergies.

The immune system

Talking about this research, Professor Hourihane said: “After birth, a baby’s immune system soon focuses on all the new challenges that life outside the womb brings, including fighting off infections and responding to immunisations.”

“We want to see children playing on the floor, getting dirty and being exposed to lots of people in lots of environments. The outcome of this is usually a stronger immune system, linked to a healthy population of gut bacteria, called the microbiome.”

“Ireland’s Covid-19 lockdown appears to have reduced the amount of other viral infections, which typically circulate in the community.”

“We have seen less than half the usual number of attendances at paediatric emergency departments and rates of seasonal influenza and other late spring upper respiratory viruses seemed much lower than usual during this time.”

The babies taking part in the study will have a blood sample taken at the start. Then, one year later, another sample will be taken to test for COVID-19 antibodies. They’ll also look at stool samples to see the baby’s microbiome. And, of course, there will be an allergy test at one and two years old to test for any allergic conditions.

We’ll have to wait to find out what their results are, but they could change how we think about allergies. It will no doubt be one of many studies around the effects of the lockdown as we try to determine just how much we’ve changed.

If you have any allergy concerns, feel free to get in touch with one of our allergy specialists. We have the knowledge and expertise to help you through your worries. Call us on 02031 433 449 to find out more.

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