Are First-born children ‘more likely to suffer from allergies’?

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Did you ever think your eldest sibling moaned more about falling ill than anyone else? It could be they had just cause.

Researchers have found first-born children are more likely to suffer from allergies than their younger brothers and sisters.Japanese scientists found that multiple births build up the immune system in the womb which is transferred to babies.It means second and third children are less likely to suffer from hay fever or develop food allergies.

Scientists surveyed the parents of 13,000 school children aged seven to 15, and asked them the order of their children and what allergies they had.The findings showed four per cent of first-born children had rhinitis, conjunctivitis and food allergies compared with 3.5 per cent of second-born
children.Meanwhile, just 2.6 per cent of third-born children suffered from allergies.

Dr Takashi Kusunoki, who led the study for the Shiga Medical Center for Children and Kyoto University in Japan, said: ‘It has been established that individuals with increased birth order have a smaller risk of allergy.  However, the significance of the effect may differ by allergic diseases.

‘Further evaluation should shed light on the role of pre and post-natal circumstances on the development of childhood allergy.’ Another reason why later children have a stronger immune system is known as
the ‘hygiene hypothesis’.

Scientists claim nervous first-time parents over-sterilize their homes for their first child while later siblings build up a stronger immune system after being exposed to more germs around the home.

Dr Frank Sulloway, an expert in the birth order from the University of California, said: ‘When the first-born comes along, there are no younger siblings and they’ve got 100 per cent of parental attention.’It seems to be reflected not only in IQ differences but first-borns essentially do things that the parents value.’While food allergies and hay fever were dependent on birth order, scientists found all children had the same risk of developing asthma and eczema.

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