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Infant Fevers Linked to Reduced Allergy Risk

Early bouts with high temperatures seem to stem allergy development in childhood

MONDAY, Feb. 9, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Children who experience fevers before they're 1 year old are less likely to develop allergies by the time they are 6 or 7.

That's the finding of a new study funded by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and published Feb. 9 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

The study adds weight to what's called the "hygiene hypothesis," a belief that early exposure to infections may protect children against allergic diseases as they grow older.

In this study, researchers followed the medical records of 835 children from birth to age 1. All fever-related episodes were documented. At ages 6 to 7, more than half the children were evaluated for sensitivity to common allergens, such as cats, ragweed and dust mites.

Of the children who did not have a fever during the first year of life, 50 percent showed allergic sensitivity. That rate was 46.7 percent among children who had had one fever and 31.3 percent among children who had at least two fevers during their first year of life.

"We didn't expect fever to relate with such a consistent effect," study co-author Christine C. Johnson, a senior research epidemiologist at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, says in a prepared statement.

"It was also interesting that the more fevers an infant had, the less likely it was that he or she would be sensitive to allergies," Johnson says.

She notes more research is required to establish if early fevers have a direct effect on children's allergy development.

More information

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SOURCE: U.S. National Institutes of Health, news release, Feb. 9, 2004
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