Measles may protect kids against allergies

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Children who’ve been infected with measles are less likely to develop allergies, a large study in Europe has demonstrated.

The occurrence of allergic disorders has increased during past decades, coinciding with reduced rates of many childhood infections and increasing use of vaccinations, Helen Rosenlund, at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and colleagues note in the medical journal Pediatrics.

However, previous studies looking for any link between allergies, measles infection, and measles vaccination have produced positive, negative and neutral results.

In the PARSIFAL study, researchers focused on children brought up in a farming and “anthroposophic” lifestyle. They explain that an anthroposophic lifestyle typically makes less use of antibiotics, medication to treat fevers, and vaccinations; it also involves high consumption of “biodynamic” foods.

The study included 12,540 children 5 to 13 years of age. According to the investigators, questionnaire responses indicated that 73 percent of children were vaccinated against measles, 20 percent had been infected with measles (including 11 percent of vaccinated children), and 14 percent had been neither vaccinated nor naturally infected.

Among the children who never had measles infection, those who had been vaccinated were more likely to have nasal allergies, Rosenlund’s group observed.

Further analysis showed that allergies were less likely in children who had had a bout of measles, but not in those who had been vaccinated against measles.

SOURCE: Pediatrics, March 2009.