Doctors are planning to expose 120 babies aged five to nine months, with a family history of allergies, to dust mites in an experiment aimed at reducing allergies.
As many as 1 in 4 people are currently affected by allergies in the UK, with children accounting for half of those affected.
Health conditions including asthma, eczema, hay fever and food allergies can all be triggered by dust mites. Experts hope that exposing babies to the mites at an early stage could help build their immune systems and prevent them from developing allergies as they grow up.
“Although we still do not know why more children are suffering from asthma, eczema, hay fever and food allergy, we do know that children born in families with asthma and allergic disease are at a higher risk of developing them,” said specialist in respiratory and allergy medicine Professor Graham Roberts, reports The Independent.
“We hope that by giving babies a common allergen when their immune systems are working out what is and isn’t harmful will allow us to teach their bodies to accept it and not become susceptible as they grow older,” Professor Graham added.
Similar studies have found that a lack of exposure to certain foods could in fact cause allergies to develop. One study found that children who ate few or no peanuts as babies were 10 times more likely to develop a peanut allergy later in life.
In Israel peanuts are used frequently for weaning compared to the UK, where advice is to avoid them. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology revealed that children in Tel Aviv had fewer peanut allergies than those in London.