Like Mother, Like Son: Allergy May Be Passed Down from Mother to Offspring

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Allergy or allergic reaction is a group of conditions caused by the body responding to foreign invaders. Common allergic reactions include eczema, contact dermatitis, allergic sinusitis, asthma, and others. It is estimated to affect about 30% of adults and 40% of children in the United States.



Conventional wisdom has it that people develop an allergy after birth by getting exposed to certain allergens. However, recent studies in animal models have suggested that allergies may be passed down from mothers to offspring during pregnancy.


Allergy may be passed down from mother to offspring


With a mouse model employed, researchers found that the key antibody in allergic reactions, immunoglobulin E (IgE), can cross the placenta and enter the fetus. When inside the fetus, the IgE antibody binds to the fetus’s immune cells. Then, after birth, newborn mice develop allergic reactions to the same type of allergen as their mothers at the time of first exposure.


Here are several things you need to know to react properly before and after allergy.



Find out what you are allergic to


Although every substance can be an allergen in theory, many people have common allergens. Common allergens include pet dander, certain foods (peanuts, nuts, shellfish, eggs, milk, etc.), pollen, molds, dust mite, insect stings (bee stings, wasp sting, etc.), certain medications (e.g., penicillin, aspirin, etc.), and others.


When they trigger allergic reactions, symptoms may include lips or mouth swelling, mouth-tingling sensation, hives, etc., depending on the affected body part.



The symptoms are often obvious, and you can figure out what you are allergic to. However, in other cases, you may need to have tests to find out. The most common ones are skin prick testing and IgE blood testing.


Get proper treatment


The best treatment for allergies is avoiding contact with the allergens. Thus, you should be aware of the allergens and avoid them whenever possible.



If you have mild symptoms, your doctor may manage them with medications, such as antihistamines (cetirizine, Benadryl, etc.). Severe allergic reactions, however, should be treated immediately with epinephrine shots. Also, some doctors would recommend immunotherapy to treat patients with severe allergies, which involves repeated injections of purified proteins made from the allergens.


Although substances that cause allergic reactions vary, symptoms are common. Depending on the severity, allergies can be divided into common allergies and severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), which is life-threatening and requires immediate and appropriate treatment. The bottom line is, know your allergens and avoid them.


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