What everyone must know about early life allergen exposure
Have you ever been into a house that has stayed unmaintained for a couple of months or years? Think of the potential for excessive humidity, dust mites, or volatile gases that could be present inside such dwellings. With the presence of mould in the mix, things could turn ugly and perhaps more catastrophic than anyone could imagine.
But guess what? Many families live in poor housing with a likelihood of invisible exposure to mould growth, volatile gases, and other allergenic substances. Therefore, knowing the potential health risks associated with early-life allergen exposure and how to deal with them could be life-saving and at least health-saving.
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How the indoor living environment could potentially affect children’s health
More than ever before, people are remaining indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to limit spread spread. According to often quoted research, people spent more than 90% of their time indoors. Therefore, discussing how indoor air quality could impact childrens’ health is critical. Fortunately, research has been published concerning this subject.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the recent science from the University of California's Institute of Integrative Immunology. They published a paper on the topic of environmental medicine that looked at early life exposure to toxins in a poor-quality indoor environments. This included prenatal exposure and how this also could be linked to unwanted behavioural changes, growth delay, and neuroimmune complications in the children living inside these homes.
To find out how the quality of the indoor environment could impact childrens health, the researchers provided three case studies of children who exhibited multiple allergen sensitization as a result of prolonged exposure to low-quality indoor environments afflicted with water damage, dust, volatile gases, and other immunogenic pathological triggers.
Such triggers included mould, mycotoxins, dust mites, and decay-related volatile particles. However, the results were shocking. Let’s narrow it down to each case.
First case study
In the first case study, researchers investigated a two-year-old boy suffering from allergic rhinitis, asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia requiring hospitalization, and even growth delay. This was due to the fact that his mother stayed in an unhealthy indoor environment from the time of conception and continued to live there after birth.
Three months after his birth, the boy started to experience epileptic seizures, prompting the mother to seek medical intervention. After testing and establishing that the boy was indeed sensitive to common environmental allergens like mould, dust mites, and cat antigen, he recommended immediate relocation of the child. And wow! The problem got solved. But the boy remained short.
Second Case Study
The second case study involved a 20-month-old boy whose mother was living in a contaminated, water damaged home. Even though the boy was born with an average weight with no sign of illness, problems began when the boy was one month old. His health status became worrying and life-threatening when he cried inconsolably and exhibited symptoms of allergic rhinitis, eczema, asthma, and difficulty swallowing.
He also had rashes that began soon after birth and advanced into blisters by four months of age. Similar to the first case, the boy also suffered seizures. After medical examinations and testing, the doctor recommended immediate relocation of the family, and the problem was solved. However, the boy remained in the fifth percentile for height.
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Third Case Study
This study involved a boy aged between 6 and 7 who was conceived and born with a normal body and health condition. At the age of 2 however, the parents relocated to a poor-quality house with water damage and mould growth.
Trouble began later when the boy developed symptoms related to allergic rhinitis, otitis media, and developmental delay. In addition to that, the boy also exhibited speech impairment, learning disability, symptoms of ADHD, and epilepsy.
During a blood test, the doctors in charge noticed abnormal immune markers. Besides that, skin allergy tests also showed sensitization to mould. However, after the parents relocated to a safe home free from environmental allergens and the boy underwent immunotherapy, within six months, the normal condition was restored and the boy could go to school.
Surprisingly, in all the three cases of dilapidated conditions discussed in this article, mould was among the dominant trigger causes of rhinitis, asthma, rapid weight loss, retarded growth, and other life-threatening conditions such as epilepsy and related seizures.
Therefore, ensuring a healthy indoor environment for your children from prenatal and after birth is critical. Whether you’re a parent, guardian, landlord, or own a property, knowing these life-threatening effects of mould and their mitigation measures can be life-saving. The old adage, when in doubt get it tested, couldn’t be more relevant, since in each case, the doctor needed to make sure the child had been exposed to mould before linking the environment to any positive allergy result and then recommending relocation.
- Klepeis NE, Nelson WC, Ott WR, Robinson JP, Tsang AM, Switzer P, Behar JV, Hern SC, Engelmann WH. The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): a resource for assessing exposure to environmental pollutants. J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol. 2001 May-Jun;11(3):231-52. doi: 10.1038/sj.jea.7500165. PMID: 11477521.
- Kushnir-Sukhov NM. A Novel Link between Early Life Allergen Exposure and Neuroimmune Development in Children. J Clin Exp Immunol. 2020;5(4):188-195. doi: 10.33140/jcei.05.04.06. Epub 2020 Aug 5. PMID: 33179020; PMCID: PMC7654965.