Birth Season Linked to Allergy Risk

According to recent research, the season in which your baby is born might have an impact on his chances of developing an allergy. Here's what you can do.

Birth Season Linked to Allergy Risk Olyshko Mykhaylo/Shutterstock

We know that babies born in the winter have a greater risk of being born with vulnerable lungs. Now, there's another piece of news that supports the idea that giving birth in the colder months might come with some risk factors.

Researchers at the University of Southampton found specific DNA markers that tie a baby's birth season to the development of allergies later in life. Not surprisingly, this research suggests that babies born during the fall and winter are at greater risk for developing conditions like eczema than babies born during the warmer months and these epigenetic markers were found to be present as many as 18 years after birth.

Long-lasting Effects

"These are really interesting results," John Holloway, Professor of Allergy and Respiratory Genetics at the university and one of the study's authors, said. "We know that season of birth has an effect on people throughout their lives. For example generally, people born in autumn and winter are at increased risk for allergic diseases such as asthma. However, until now, we did not know how the effects can be so long-lasting."

Holloway went on to explain: "Epigenetic marks are attached onto DNA, and can influence gene expression—the process by which specific genes are activated to produce a required protein—for years, maybe even into the next generation. Our study has linked specific epigenetic marks with season of birth and risk of allergy. However, while these results have clinical implications in mediating against allergy risk, we are not advising altering pregnancy timing," he said in the study's release.

Searching for a cause

While more research is required to fully understand it, researchers believe there's enough evidence to support this link. Additional studies will aim to answer the question of what exactly causes these seasonal discrepancies—whether it's temperatures, sunlight levels or even simply diet, which can certainly vary based on season. Winter weight gain, anyone?

"It might sound like a horoscope by the seasons, but now we have scientific evidence for how that horoscope could work. Because season of birth influences so many things, the epigenetic marks discovered in this study could also potentially be the mechanism for other seasonally influenced diseases and traits too, not just allergy," Gabrielle Lockett, the study's first author, said.