A new study has found that childhood stress may lead to the risk of developing allergies in later life.
German researchers have revealed that dramatic life events like the death of a family member; serious illnesses of a family member or the separation of parents increases a child's susceptibly of catching allergies.
Also events like for example moving house are suspected of increasing the risk of allergies for the children affected.
During the study, the researchers examined blood samples taken from 234 six-year old children and discovered increased blood concentrations of the stress-related peptide VIP (vasoactive intestinal polypeptide) in connection with moving house or the separation of parents.
They believe that neuropeptide VIP could take on a mediator role between stress events in life and the regulation of immune responses.
The immune system obviously plays a mediator role between stress on the one hand and allergies on the other. Since these mechanisms had hardly been understood before, researchers attempted to identify stress-related factors showing an influence on the immune system.
With children, whose parents had separated over the last year, researchers found increased blood concentrations of the neuropeptide VIP (vasoactive intestinal polypeptide) as well as an increased concentration of immune markers, which are related to the occurrence of allergic reactions, like for example the cytokine IL-4.
By comparison, serious diseases or the death of close relatives led to no remarkable changes. Likewise, the unemployment of parents was not associated with increased concentrations of the stress-related peptides in the children's blood.
Even after moving house, the researchers found increased concentrations of the stress peptide VIP in the blood of children.
The investigations are based on data from 6-year old children from the "Lifestyle - Immune System - Allergy" (LISA) study.
The study appears in the scientific journal Pediatric Allergy and Immunology.