Specific Allergies Might Be Inherited, Study Hints

Older teens are more likely to be allergic to the same things as one or both of their parents, results of a new study suggest.

A child's development of allergies to specific things like cats, dogs and grass is likely to reflect both exposure to common allergens and a degree of added risk determined by their parent's specific allergies, the researchers suggest.

It is well accepted that a family history of allergy is a risk factor for allergy in children. However, it is unclear whether children will be allergic to the same things as their parents or whether they will just be more prone to allergies in general.

To find out, Dr. Rana Tawil Misiak from Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit and colleagues studied 316 teenagers, who were 18 years old, and their parents. They found that having one or both parents with a specific allergy to any of six offending agents (such as dog, cat, ragweed, or grass) boosted the likelihood of the teenage son or daughter having that same allergy.

Teens whose mothers were allergic to cats were roughly two times more likely to be allergic to cats compared to teens whose mothers did not sneeze at cats. This was also true for grass and mold.

Likewise, teens whose fathers were allergic to dogs were nearly three times more likely to be allergic to dogs compared with teens whose fathers were not allergic to dogs. This was also true for grass and dust mites.

These results, reported in the latest issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, suggest that it is possible to pass on specific allergies to your kids, the researchers say.

Doctors could use this information, they point out, in counseling. "Parents often inquire about whether their children will have the same allergies that they do, especially when making decisions about a family pet or another aspect of their home environment," Misiak and colleagues explain.