Stress in Childhood Increases Allergy Risk

Allergic man

When everything blossoms, the
allergy season reaches its peak;

The fact that stress events can have an influence on the development of allergies has been known for a while. The mechanisms behind this however remained unexplained for a long time. In the recently published study, stress events were investigated during early childhood within a large epidemiological study using immune and stress markers.

The researchers had examined blood samples taken from 234 six-year old children and discovered increased blood concentrations of the stress-related peptide VIP (vasoactive intestinal polypeptide) in connection with stress events. Preceding investigations showed that there is a relationship between an increased concentration of the neuropeptide VIP and allergic sensitisations among six-year old children.

At the same time as the blood tests, researchers also analysed the most diverse social factors in the children's environment, in order to find out which factors are causing stress-related regulation deficiencies of the immune system. With children, whose parents had separated over the last year or who moved house, researchers found increased blood concentrations of the neuropeptide VIP (vasoactive intestinal polypeptide) as well as an increased concentration of immune markers, which are related to the occurrence of allergic reactions, like for example the cytokine IL-4.

By comparison, serious diseases or the death of close relatives or unemployment of parents led to no remarkable changes of the concentrations of the stress-related peptides. As tragic as these events are, they are obviously of less significance for the stress reactions of children than for example a separation or the divorce of parents, researchers have concluded.; Source: Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres