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Studies on early life viral respiratory infection and subsequent atopic disease in childhood have conflicting findings. Animal models show that viral respiratory infection in conjunction with allergen presentation can enhance sensitization. This prospective study assesses the influence of an upper respiratory tract infection (URI) in the first month of life and the season of birth on the development of hay fever and ryegrass allergen sensitization in childhood. From a Tasmanian cohort born during 1988 and 1989, a group of 498 children were followed up at 8 yr and another different group of 415 children were followed up at 16 yr. The ryegrass pollen season in Tasmania occurs in November and December. Forty-four (9.6%) children in Follow-up sample 1 and 47 (12.5%) children in Follow-up sample 2 were born in the pollen season. The parental report of an early upper respiratory tract infection (EURI) was documented prospectively by a home interview at 1 month of age (median age 5.1 wk). Sensitization to ryegrass and house dust mite (HDM) was determined at 8 yr of age by skin prick testing and at 16 yr by ImmunoCap. Ryegrass sensitized hay fever was defined as a positive response to a question on hay fever plus the presence of ryegrass allergy. For children tested at age 8 and born in the pollen season, a EURI by postnatal interview was associated with an increased risk of ryegrass sensitization (OR 5.80 95% CI 1.07, 31.31) but not for children with a EURI born outside the pollen season (OR 0.62 95% CI 0.35, 1.08). Similarly, EURI was significantly associated with early onset (< or = 8 yr) ryegrass sensitized hay fever for children born in the pollen season (AOR 4.78 95% CI 1.17, 19.47) but was not associated with early onset ryegrass sensitized hay fever for children born outside the pollen season (AOR 0.76 95% CI 0.43, 1.33). These findings suggest that early life viral URI interacts with ryegrass allergen exposure in the development of ryegrass allergen sensitization and ryegrass sensitized hay fever symptoms.

Original publication




Journal article


Pediatr Allergy Immunol

Publication Date





536 - 544


Adolescent, Allergens, Child, Cohort Studies, Humans, Hypersensitivity, Immediate, Infant, Newborn, Pollen, Respiratory Tract Infections, Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal, Secale, Tasmania, Virus Diseases, Viruses