Nature Versus Nurture: Are Allergies Hereditary?

Nature Versus Nurture: Are Allergies Hereditary?

Allergic rhinitis (hayfever) affects nearly one in five people in Australia and New Zealand, with those individuals dealing with symptoms like a runny, congested nose and sneezing. For many Australians, it’s a never-ending battle that causes ongoing discomfort and frustration.

If you’re a parent (or plan on becoming one) and you’re dealing with allergic rhinitis – you might wonder whether your children are also likely to face the same health issues. While there’s evidence that links genetic predisposition with allergy development, it’s not the only deciding factor. Thankfully, even if your child does suffer from hayfever, there are a number of ways you can manage the symptoms of allergic rhinitis on a daily basis.

Are allergies hereditary?

While there is evidence to support the idea that allergic disorders are influenced by genetics, it’s not a cut and dry case. If you suffer from hayfever, your child will have a genetic predisposition to the same condition and is more likely to develop allergies than a child with an allergy-free parent. If both parents of a child deal with hayfever, that likelihood increases again – although that’s not to say that it’s certain that their children will develop allergic rhinitis.

Genetics aside, environmental factors can also influence the likelihood that your child will develop seasonal allergies (like whether or not they’re exposed to passive cigarette smoke at a young age).

Allergic rhinitis in children

Every parent wants their child to experience the best the world has to offer. With the right understanding and treatment, hayfever symptoms can be easily managed. If your child suffers from seasonal allergies or hayfever caused by grass, tree or weed pollen, it’s a good idea to check a daily pollen forecast. If the projected count is high, try to limit their time outdoors as much as you can by opting for indoor activities.

Dust mites are a common indoor allergen so it’s important to remain vigilant in preventing them from making themselves at home in your house. Wash your child’s bedding regularly, along with any stuffed animals. If toys can’t be washed, place them in a plastic bag and freeze them overnight to kill any mites that have worked their way into their material.

Hayfever hacks

Whether it’s you or your child who is experiencing symptoms of allergic rhinitis, there are ways to make managing the condition easier.

If your child is experiencing itchy and watery eyes as a symptom of allergic rhinitis, it’s important to try and ensure they don’t rub them – which can make allergy symptoms worse.  After playing outside, it’s a good idea to change your child’s clothing and encourage regular washing of the hands and face – as pollen can embed itself in clothes and hair.

If you're planning a holiday, it's worth bearing in mind that some coastal destinations are better for allergy sufferers than inland locations.

References
  • ASCIA - https://www.allergy.org.au/images/pcc/ASCIA_PCC_Allergic_Rhinitis_2019.pdf (accessed February 2020)
  • Ronald S Walls, Robert J Heddle, Mimi L K Tang, Ben J Basger, Graham O Solley and Guan T Yeo, ‘Optimising the management of allergic rhinitis: an Australian perspective’, Medical Journal Australia, 2005 (Accessed September 2018)
  • Portelli MA, Hodge E, Sayers I., ‘Genetic risk factors for the development of allergic disease identified by genome-wide association’ Clinical and Experimental Allergy, 2015 (Accessed September 2018)
  • Manuel A Ferreira, ‘Shared genetic origin of asthma, hay fever and eczema elucidates allergic disease biology’, Nature Genetics, 2017 (Accessed September 2018)
  • Saulyte J, Regueira C, Montes-Martínez A, Khudyakov P, Takkouche B., ‘Active or Passive Exposure to Tobacco Smoking and Allergic Rhinitis, Allergic Dermatitis, and Food Allergy in Adults and Children: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis’, PLoS Medicine, 2014 (Accessed September 2018)
  • ACAAI, ‘Dust allergy’, American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, 2018 (Accessed September 2018)
  • Allergy UK, ‘Allergic rhinitis in children’, www.allergyuk.org, 2017 (Accessed September 2018)
  • ASCIA, ‘Pollen Allergy’, www.allergy.com.au, 2017 (Accessed September 2018)