Common Childhood Allergies Linked To Higher Risk Of Heart Disease Later In Life

Childhood Allergies
New research suggests children with common allergies are more likely to develop heart problems later in life. Courtesy of Flickr, Mark Levin

Children whose skin becomes red and itchy after exposure to an allergen may have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol than their peers, according to a new study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. This could in turn put them on course for heart problems later in life.

Researchers from Northwestern University found children who suffered from common chronic inflammatory disorders, such as asthma, hay fever, and eczema, had a modestly higher cardiovascular risk than children without these conditions, known as atopic diseases. The findings implicate allergic diseases in children as a contributor to future cardiovascular disease rates.

“It may very well be that soaring rates of allergic diseases in past decades have impacted the heart disease rates in this country,” Dr. Jonathan Silverberg, lead author of the study, told Time. “It’s certainly the subject of future research to figure out whether we think increasing rates of allergic disease are driving heart disease or not.”

For the study, Silverberg and his colleagues collected and analyzed data from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, which involved more than 13,000 children aged 17 and under. The goal was to examine the associations between these atopic diseases and risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

The researchers found pediatric asthma, eczema, and hay fever appeared in a respective 14, 12 and 17 percent of children. While all children’s conditions were associated with excess weight, only those with asthma and hay fever also had a higher risk of hypertension or high cholesterol. The fact that these two conditions existed separately from obesity led the researchers to believe higher rates of cardiovascular disease were a result of the inflammation caused by asthma and hay fever patients. In asthmatic children specifically, this may partially due to a more sedentary lifestyle.  

About 6.8 million children living in the U.S. had asthma in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention. That same year, an estimated 6.6 million children had hay fever, while about 1 in 3 suffered from moderate to severe eczema. Screening these children for cardiovascular risk factors more aggressively may reduce disease rates in the future, although more research into the association between the conditions will be necessary, Silverberg said.

Silverberg, J et al. Atopic Disease and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in US Children. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology . 2015.

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