Allergies & Allergens
Allergies May Run in the Family
You’ve got mum’s eyes. You also inherited grandma’s great fashion sense. But did you know seasonal allergies might have been passed down, too?
Understanding Allergy Sensitivity
In order to understand why allergies may be hereditary, it’s important to understand a little bit about how allergies work. In general terms, an allergy is a sensitivity of your immune system to something that is ordinarily harmless. These harmless “somethings” can include a lot of different things but in the spring when you experience seasonal allergies, the biggest culprit is generally pollen from all those flowering plants and trees.
Are You Atopic?
The reaction that you experience—anything from sneezing, coughing, or runny eyes—is caused when your body produces an antibody called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). Everyone produces IgE but only some people produce enough antibodies to cause symptoms and these are the people with allergies. If you are more likely to create IgE antibodies that cause allergic reactions, you are considered atopic. Atopy seems to run in families.
So, Are Allergies 100% Inherited?
While a strong case has been made for the link between genetics and allergies, don’t rush to blame mum and grandma this Mother’s Day if you feel that familiar allergic tickle in the back of your throat.
Even if you come from an atopic family, you are not guaranteed to inherit allergies. But the odds go up compared to if you did not. Recent scientific publications suggest that the overall contribution hereditary factors have on allergic rhinitis (the fancy name for hay fever) is estimated to be between 33% and 91%1,2! But don’t worry, if your mum or grandma is allergic to grass, that doesn’t mean you or your children will have the same allergy. Specific allergies aren’t passed down, but the tendency to have allergies in general is passed down.
Tips for Parents of Kids With Allergies
Spring allergies are in full swing and if you’re a parent with allergies, here are some tips to help:
- Make sure your child's school has their allergy medication on hand in case their symptoms start acting up on the playground
- Ask your children and their friends to take off their shoes before coming inside so allergens from outside are left outside
- You might consider sunglasses, as they might protect their little eyes from coming in contact with allergens when they go outside to play
- Make sure your child showers or takes a bath every day before bed
- Check the Australian Pollen Forecast website so you are prepared
References: 1. Portelli, M. et al. (2015). Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 45(1), 21-31. 2. Davila, I. et al. (2009). J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol, 19(Suppl 1), 25-31.