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Nov 01

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Can the risk for allergy be determined at birth?
It is now possible to identify babies at risk for allergy at birth. Two factors are usually considered, namely (1) Family history, and (2) Cord blood total serum IgE level. Epidemiological studies have shown that when one parent has allergy the risk for the baby is 20 percent but if both parents have allergy the risk for the baby developing an allergic disorder increase to 70%. The risk of allergy is four times higher if the mother has allergy compared if the father has allergy. If there is a family history, even when grandparents have allergic symptoms, it is advisable to plan to reduce exposure to allergens for the baby even during the pregnancy.

In recent years research studies have revealed that the foetus develops in an immunological environment biased for the humoral response during pregnancy. This means that genetically predisposed foetus has a very high risk for being sensitized to allergens during pregnancy. This means that the serum IgE levels will be elevated in the baby’s blood. Thus, the risk for allergy can be easily determined by estimating the total serum IgE level in the cord blood at birth. A high IgE concentration in the cord blood suggests that the baby has a high risk for the development of allergy. This information pre-warns the paediatrician of the possibility of allergy symptoms in the baby appearing anytime after birth depending on the exposure to allergens. Therefore, avoidance measures can be taken early even before the symptoms appear and reduce the chances for allergy symptoms in the predisposed baby.

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At birth an infant’s immune system is immature and the neonate is dependent on many factors present in breast milk for immune protection. Depriving the baby of breast milk may speed up the development of allergy in pre-disposed infants.