NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - In children at increased risk for developing allergies, common childhood immunizations do not increase the risk of more severe eczema or allergies, according to a study published in the journal Allergy.
Infant vaccinations have been suggested as the cause of atopic disease. Atopy refers to the tendency to develop allergies, such as "atopic" dermatitis, hay fever and asthma. Atopy occurs as a result of an excessive inflammatory response to everyday environmental substances, such as dust mites and grass pollen.
"Atopic diseases are among the commonest chronic conditions in childhood," Dr. Christoph Gruber, of Universitatsmedizin Berlin, Germany, and colleagues wrote in the journal. "Parents of children at heightened risk for atopy are frequently concerned about the effect of immunization in infancy."
Gruber's team examined the effect of immunization in the first year of life in 2184 infants between the ages of 1 and 2 years with active atopic dermatitis and a family history of allergy. Sixty-five percent of the children showed signs of having allergies.
According to the researchers, there was no association between immunization with any particular routine childhood vaccine and an increased risk of allergic sensitization or more severe eczema -- an itchy red skin rash that affects up to 20 percent of children.
On the other hand, varicella (chickenpox) immunization seemed to offer some protection against allergy and eczema severity and pertussis (whopping cough) immunization offered some protection against eczema severity.
The team concludes, "Parents of atopic children should be encouraged to fully immunize their children."
SOURCE: Allergy, November 2008.