Food Allergies More Likely in First-Born Children, Study Finds

Filed under: Health & Safety: Babies, Health & Safety: Teens, Research Reveals: Tweens, Health & Safety: Tweens, Research Reveals: Big Kids, Health & Safety: Big Kids, Research Reveals: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Health & Safety: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Research Reveals: Babies, Research Reveals: Teens

food allergy kids

First-borns are more likely to be allergic to certain foods, a new study says. Credit: Getty Images

"Thus says the Lord: About midnight, I will go forth in the midst of Egypt, and all the first born in the land of Egypt shall die. Either that, or I shall make them swell up like a balloon whenever they eat one of their precious peanuts. That shouldst showeth them who they art messing with." (Exodus 11:4.0)

OK, that may be a somewhat loose translation of scripture, but dang if there isn't a plague -- at least a food plague -- on the first born.

ABC News reports a new study shows first-born children are more likely to have food allergies, standing about a 4 percent chance of being allergic to peanuts and other foods. Those odds drop to 3.5 percent among second children and 2.6 among subsequent children.

Japanese researchers compared 13,000 kids between the ages 7 and 15 -- looking at the allergy rates, depending on where each child fell in terms of birth order. Researchers also asked parents if their kids experienced wheezing, eczema or food allergies before age 1.

Researchers presented their findings at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in San Francisco March 20.

"It has been established that individuals with increased birth order have a smaller risk of allergy," lead researcher Takashi Kusunoki, of the pediatrics department at Shiga Medical Center for Children and Kyoto University, says in a press release from the academy. "However, the significance of the effect may differ by allergic diseases."

Kara Corridan, health editor at Parents magazine, tells ABC News she isn't "too excited about this." The study is still very preliminary.

Nonetheless, she tells the network, this could be good news for parents grappling with food allergies with their oldest child.

"Even if there's a small fraction of a chance that younger children don't have (food allergies), that would be great," she says.

Researchers also concluded oldest children are more likely to have allergic rhinitis and conjunctivitis -- conditions that affect the nose and mouth -- than their little brothers and sisters.

Why? Researchers tell ABC is could be that multiple pregnancies make a womb tough, building up its immune system with each subsequent child. It also could be the Hygiene Hypothesis, which is not the name of an episode of "The Big Bang Theory."

Rather, it's the theory that parents go a little nuts in sterilizing their home in preparation for a first child. By the time baby No. 2 comes around, everyone has chilled out and is back to eating with their hands off the kitchen floor. Outside an overly sterilized environment, you have to get tough or die.

"The more you are exposed to an allergen, the more likely it is you'll be immune to it," Corridan tells ABC News.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.