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It’s common practice to want to protect your child from anything and everything.  In fact, it’s a key part of what protects little ones from sticking forks in electrical sockets and trying to eat marbles.  However, sometimes there are things that are seemingly outside of our control when it comes to the health and safety of your child, and one of those is allergies.  Whether you’re familiar with them yourself, or you simply want to help prevent allergies in your child, education on all of the up and coming options is critical to staying in the know about allergies.  Something to add to your list for its potential support could be a particular whooping cough vaccine.

 

How a whooping cough vaccine could prevent allergies

It seems strange that something as seemingly unrelated as a whooping cough vaccine could help prevent allergies in children later in life, especially since these are infant shots, but there is quickly building research to support it.  Recent studies success that infants who were given the BPZE1 vaccine as infants (popular in the 1990s) were found to have a stronger immune system and airways that were not as sensitive to allergens later in childhood [1].  Since most people develop allergies in response to the airways assuming something as a threat, the thought is that the strong airways are responsible for helping keep allergies at bay in children that don’t have any other predispositions (such as both biological parents having food allergies).

In studies where children were tracked from infancy to the age of 7 (having had the BPZE1 vaccine as infants), there was also data to suggest that not only had most of them not developed allergies at the age of 7 (the end of the study), their resistance was as strong at 6 months as it was at 2 and 4 and onward [2].  This suggests that getting the vaccine strengthens the immune system consistently specifically to allergies and that resistance is ongoing in children even as they age, instead of fading with time.

 

The whooping cough vaccine is not a cure-all to prevent allergies

It’s worth noting that this vaccine — while promising in studies — is not a solution to childhood allergies as of right now.  If children are predisposed to allergies through their parents, the vaccine doesn’t offer the same strengthening to the immune system, though it can be supportive in some cases.  Allergies are weak points within the immune system, and the vaccine can only do so much to strengthen what an infant has as they age.  Just because a child has had this vaccine doesn’t mean that they are immune against allergens of all kinds.  It just means that they have a stronger chance of fighting them off.

As well, there was some data that suggested that the vaccination can actually cause allergies and weak immune systems in children as they age.  This is one of the cornerstone pieces of data that anti-vaccination parents use in order to skip vaccinations in their infants.  However, studies show no connection between vaccinations like the whooping cough vaccine and an increased risk of allergy to medication such as antibiotics or eggs [3].  Vaccinating your children is still the best way to prevent illnesses and weakened immune systems according to most (if not all) medical professionals.

 

Other ways to prevent allergies in children

There is still quite a lot of research that needs to be done as far as the role of the whooping cough vaccine, but you can do your part in helping your child to develop a strong immune system.  Evidence suggests that proper exposure to allergens at an early age — especially food allergens — can help the body create healthy responses to food ingredients [4].  This is thought to be effective even in those children who have parents that have food allergies.  Proper diet and monitoring can be really helpful to create a strong and experienced immune system.

There is also a lot of science behind the role of the environment and the development of allergies.  It’s commonly understood that living in an urban environment can create weaknesses such as asthma, however, there is also evidence to suggest — through case studies — that growing up in rural environments such as a farm can help prevent the development of inflamed airways [5].  While this isn’t a cure to allergies, it can be a powerful aid in helping your child have a strong and properly exposed immune system, which will help them be healthier later in life.

It’s exciting to think that something as common day as a run-of-them-mill whooping cough vaccine could be helpful to prevent allergies, but the evidence does suggest that it could be supportive.  A strong immune system is a healthy immune system, and the healthier the immune system is, the more it will resist over-reacting to food ingredients or other triggers that come into the body.

 

References

[1] Kavanagh, H., Noone, C., Cahill, E., English, K., Locht, C. and Mahon, B.P., 2010. Attenuated Bordetella pertussis vaccine strain BPZE1 modulates allergen‐induced immunity and prevents allergic pulmonary pathology in a murine model. Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 40(6), pp.933-941. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20184606

[2] Nilsson, L., Kjellman, N.I.M. and Björkstén, B., 2003. Allergic disease at the age of 7 years after pertussis vaccination in infancy: results from the follow-up of a randomized controlled trial of 3 vaccines. Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine, 157(12), pp.1184-1189. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK206940/

[3] Grüber, C., Nilsson, L. and Björkstén, B., 2001. Do early childhood immunizations influence the development of atopy and do they cause allergic reactions?. Pediatric allergy and Immunology, 12(6), pp.296-311. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11846867

[4] Du Toit, G., Sampson, H.A., Plaut, M., Burks, A.W., Akdis, C.A. and Lack, G., 2018. Food allergy: Update on prevention and tolerance. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 141(1), pp.30-40. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29191680

[5] Kilpeläinen, M., Terho, E.O., Helenius, H. and Koskenvuo, M., 2000. Farm environment in childhood prevents the development of allergies. Clinical and experimental allergy: journal of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 30(2), pp.201-208. Available at: https://www.atsjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1513/pats.200701-028AW