We are predisposed to forgive, new research suggests

When assessing the moral character of others, people cling to good impressions but readily adjust their opinions about those who have behaved badly, according to new research.

This flexibility in judging transgressors might help explain both how humans forgive — and why they sometimes stay in bad relationships, said the study’s authors.

The research — conducted by psychologists at Yale, University of Oxford, University College London, and the International School for Advanced Studies — appeared Sept. 17 in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.

“The brain forms social impressions in a way that can enable forgiveness,” said Yale psychologist Molly Crockett, senior author of the paper. “Because people sometimes behave badly by accident, we need to be able to update bad impressions that turn out to be mistaken. Otherwise, we might end relationships prematurely and miss out on the many benefits of social connection.”

Across a series of experiments, more than 1500 subjects observed the choices of two strangers who faced a moral dilemma: whether to inflict painful electric shocks on another person in exchange for money. While the “good” stranger mostly refused to shock another person for money, the “bad” stranger tended to maximize their profits despite the painful consequences. The subjects were asked their impressions of the strangers’ moral character and how confident they were about those impressions.

Subjects rapidly formed stable, positive impressions of the good stranger and were highly confident of their impressions. However, the subjects were far less confident that the bad stranger was truly bad and could change their minds quickly. For instance, when the bad stranger occasionally made a generous choice, subjects’ impressions immediately improved — until they witnessed the stranger’s next transgression.”

This pattern of impression updating may provide some insight into why people sometimes hold on to bad relationships, Crockett said. “We think our findings reveal a basic predisposition towards giving others, even strangers, the benefit of the doubt. The human mind is built for maintaining social relationships, even when partners sometimes behave badly.”

The research also may eventually help shed light on psychiatric disorders involving social difficulties, such as Borderline Personality Disorder.

“The ability to accurately form impressions of others’ character is crucial for the development and maintenance of healthy relationships” said Jenifer Siegel, an Oxford doctoral student and lead author of the paper. “We have developed new tools for measuring impression formation, which could help improve our understanding of relational dysfunction.”

The research was funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Academy of Medical Sciences.

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Materials provided by Yale University. Original written by Bill Hathaway. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

How to Clean Your Oven

I rarely think to clean my oven, but when I do, it’s usually because I can’t ignore it anymore. You see, I’ve been not cleaning it for as many years I’ve been using it (a lot). Though I’d like to believe it’s merely a mystical land where milk, eggs, and sugar go to become cake and whole chickens return a week’s worth of dinners, it’s an appliance, and it needs to be maintained. Otherwise, grime starts to build up, residual pan drippings start to burn, things get smoky, and it’s suddenly more of a dark, scary cave than the magical, pastry-making wonderland I wish it were.

Cleaning an oven is a daunting task, but it’s actually not as hard as it seems like it would be. All you need are a handful of all-natural products (that you probably already have around the house), and a few simple tips to get the job done in less than an hour. SELF spoke to Becky Rapinchuck, creator of the cleaning blog Clean Mama, about all the tips, tricks, and supplies she relies on. Here’s everything she does to make the process as easy as possible.

Before you get started, gather your tools.

Though Rapinchuck prefers to use all-natural cleaning supplies for personal reasons, she says they also happen to work just as well as any products specifically intended for cleaning ovens—and usually at a lower price. In fact, you probably already have most of the things you need somewhere in your house. According to her, you’ll need baking soda, dish soap, water, sponges, and a dish to place your cleaning mixture in. Rather than recommending a regular sponge, she says you should use a scrub sponge (like these), because they’re easier to remove residue from.

Kick off the process by making a homemade cleaning paste.

Combine 1/2 cup of water with enough baking soda to make a paste (about 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup) and 1 tablespoon of whatever dish soap you have on hand, says Rapinchuck. “[The paste] will expand a bit as the baking soda combines with the soap and the water,” she says.

Then, remove the racks.

Before you get started on your oven, she says you should first remove the racks and transfer them to your kitchen sink. Coat them in the paste and let them sit for 15 to 30 minutes.

Now, it’s time to clean your oven.

“Using your sponge,” says Rapinchuck, “spread the paste all over your oven, taking care to avoid any holes or cracks.” Let the oven sit with the mixture for 15 to 30 minutes as you did with the oven racks. Then, using a clean scrub sponge, wipe and rinse the oven thoroughly with warm water. “Repeat the wiping and rinsing with a barely damp scrub sponge,” she says, “until the oven is completely clean and residue free.” Once it’s completely rinsed, dry and polish it with a clean, dry cloth. Rinse and dry the racks as well and return to the oven. If you follow all these steps accordingly, she says, “the whole process from start to finish will probably take 45 minutes,” she says.

The more often you clean your oven, the easier it will be to keep clean.

That’s all you need to do to get your oven nice and clean, and Rapinchuck says that you should do it four times a year if you use your oven regularly. You can get away with cleaning it less often than that, but quarterly cleaning sessions will make the the mess more manageable. “The more often you clean something, the easier it is to clean,” she explains. Though it may seem like extra work from the jump, she says, “it’s less of a hassle in the long run,” so you never have to feat a dirty oven again.

You can’t tell whether an online restaurant review is fake — but this AI can

Sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp and Amazon display user reviews of products and services. Consumers take heed: nine out of ten people read these peer reviews and trust what they see. In fact, up to 40% of users decide to make a purchase based on only a couple of reviews, and great reviews make people spend 30% more on their purchases.

Yet not all reviews are legitimate. Fake reviews written by real people are already common on review sites, but the amount of fakes generated by machines is likely to increase substantially.

According to doctoral student Mika Juuti at Aalto University, fake reviews based on algorithms are nowadays easy, accurate and fast to generate. Most of the time, people are unable to tell the difference between genuine and machine-generated fake reviews.

‘Misbehaving companies can either try to boost their sales by creating a positive brand image artificially or by generating fake negative reviews about a competitor. The motivation is, of course, money: online reviews are a big business for travel destinations, hotels, service providers and consumer products,’ says Mika Juuti.

In 2017, researchers from the University of Chicago described a method for training a machine learning model, a deep neural network, using a dataset of three million real restaurant ratings on Yelp. After the training, the model generated fake restaurant reviews character by character.

There was a slight hiccup in the method, however; it had a hard time staying on topic. For a review of a Japanese restaurant in Las Vegas, the model could make references to an Italian restaurant in Baltimore. These kinds of errors are, of course, easily spotted by readers.

To help the review generator stay on the mark, Juuti and his team used a technique called neural machine translation to give the model a sense of context. Using a text sequence of ‘review rating, restaurant name, city, state, and food tags’, they started to obtain believable results.

‘In the user study we conducted, we showed participants real reviews written by humans and fake machine-generated reviews and asked them to identify the fakes. Up to 60% of the fake reviews were mistakenly thought to be real,’ says Juuti.

Juuti and his colleagues then devised a classifier that would be able to spot the fakes. The classifier turned out to perform well, particularly in cases where human evaluators had the most difficulties in telling whether a review is real or not.

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Materials provided by Aalto University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Air pollution affects thyroid development in fetuses

Soot and dust alters thyroid development in fetuses before they are born in smoggy cities, raising concern about health impacts later in life, new USC research shows.

It means before a doctor cuts the umbilical cord or a parent hugs a baby or a sibling gazes at the newest member of the family, the caress of air pollution already reached the womb’s inner sanctum. The timing couldn’t be worse, as the researchers found that no matter when they checked, thyroid impacts were evident until the final month of gestation.

This is one of the few studies to monitor air pollution effects on a developing fetus and the first to track pollution changes month by month on thyroid hormones. The newly published research paper appears in JAMA Network Open.

“Air pollution is bad for adults and children and this study shows it may be bad for the fetus too, despite being protected in the womb,” said Carrie V. Breton, corresponding author of the study and associate professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “Thyroid function is important for lots of elements of life and tweaking that in utero may have lifelong consequences.”

USC scientists have been studying the health impacts of urban air pollution for a generation under the Children’s Health Study. It’s one of the world’s largest ongoing research efforts looking exclusively at how dirty air harms kids. USC is situated in the Los Angeles region, home to historically severe urban smog, an ideal laboratory to study air pollution health effects and environmental change across time.

Since the effort began in 1992, various USC researchers have documented how air pollution contributes to school absences, asthma, bronchitis and lost-lung function. Conversely, as air quality has improved due to regulations and technology innovations, scientists have been able to track improvements in children’s health.

In the new study, the research team focused on 2,050 newborns, people who had been enrolled in the Children’s Health Study previously. They selected them using birth data from the mid-1990s, when they were elementary school students at 13 Southern California schools. About 60 percent were white, 30 percent Latino and the remainder black or other races.

The participants were included only if they had blood tests taken right after birth and had complete monthly exposure measures for air pollution throughout pregnancy. The scientists checked blood levels for total thyroxine (TT4), a hormone secreted by the thyroid gland.

The researchers found that when exposure to PM2.5 increased by 16 micrograms per cubic meter of air (roughly the volume of a dishwasher), TT4 levels in blood increased 7.5 percent above average levels in babies. When exposure to PM10 increased by 22 micrograms per cubic meter, TT4 levels increased by 9.3 percent, according to the study. They did not see the same increases associated with other air pollutants, such as ozone or nitrogen dioxide.

Moreover, exposures during months three to seven of pregnancy were most significant for PM2.5, which are typically sooty particles 20 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. PM10 exposure during one to eight months of pregnancy was associated with significantly higher newborn TT4 concentrations. PM10 are airborne particles, 10 microns in diameter, which often comes from dirt dust and pulverized road grit.

The findings show that the fetal thyroid gland seems particularly susceptible to airborne particulate, especially during early- to mid-pregnancy, according to the study. It’s consistent with previous studies by other researchers that show industrial chemicals, tobacco smoke and indoor air pollution impact the thyroid gland.

However, the study did not assess the health effects of the air pollution exposures. Thyroid hormones are critical for regulating fetal growth and metabolism and play important roles in neurodevelopment. Even subtle changes in maternal thyroid function during pregnancy have been associated with reduced fetal growth and cognitive deficits in children, with detrimental effects observed for both low- and high-levels of thyroid hormones, the study found. Also, the study only looked at one hormonal pathway associated with the thyroid gland, which the authors acknowledge is a limitation.

Nonetheless, the findings underscore that air pollution penetrates deeply within the human body to reach the most vulnerable people of all — unborn babies. Breton said it’s a wakeup call not only for smoggy places like California and the United States, but rapidly industrializing cities around the world.

“There are several places around the world where air pollution is skyrocketing,” Breton said. “This is another example of an environmental exposure that affects early development in subtle ways, and we don’t know the health consequences.”

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grants 1R21 ES025870, P30 ES007048, 1UG3OD023287 and T32 ES013678).

Carrie Underwood Reveals She Had 3 Miscarriages in the Past 2 Years: ‘I Got Mad’

In a new interview with CBS News, Carrie Underwood reveals that she had three miscarriages within the last two years. And, as she explains in the interview, coping with those experiences influenced quite a few of the songs on her new album, Cry Pretty.

“I’d kind of planned that 2017 was, you know, going to be the year that I work on new music and I have a baby,” Underwood says in the interview. And although she became pregnant early in 2017, she says it “didn’t work out.” She got pregnant again in the spring of 2017 and a third time in early 2018, but, again, the pregnancies “didn’t work out,” she said. “So, at that point, it was just kind of like, ‘OK, like, what’s the deal? What is all of this?'”

Underwood says she threw herself into her work and dealt with her emotions behind closed doors—an experience she sings about on Cry Pretty‘s title track.

“Throughout the whole process, you know, I’m writing and, like, literally right after finding out that I would lose a baby, I’d have a writing session, I’d be like, ‘Let’s go. You know, I can’t just sit around thinking about this. Like, I wanna work, I wanna do this,'” she said. “‘Cause I would literally have these horrible things going on in my life, and then have to go smile and, like, do some interviews or, like, do a photo shoot or something, you know? So it was just kind of, like, therapeutic.”

Part of the frustration for her was that she realized how much was going right in her life. “I had always been afraid to be angry because we’re so blessed… Really what can I complain about? I can’t.” she said. At a certain point, though, “I got mad,” she said.

She continued, “I feel like there’s several songs on the album that came from that, you know, or I connect with in a totally different way because of those experiences that we went through.” And those experiences were hard, she says, “but things are looking better.”

As SELF wrote previously, miscarriages are probably more common than most of us realize.

Miscarriages occur in about 10 percent of known pregnancies according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). But repeated pregnancy loss is rare.

It’s estimated that less than 5 percent of women will have two or more consecutive miscarriages, SELF explained previously, and less than 1 percent will have three or more. These rare cases can be caused by a ton of different issues, including uterine abnormalities, hormone issues, or underlying conditions, such as uncontrolled diabetes.

But, as Underwood proves, even these circumstances don’t necessarily mean you’ll never become pregnant. In August, she revealed in a video posted to her Twitter account that she was happily pregnant with her second child.

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Researchers find children experience concussion symptoms three times longer than adults

Concussion symptoms for children under 13 years old typically last three times longer than they do for older teens and adults, but keeping them out of the classroom during recovery is not necessarily the preferred treatment, according to a comprehensive research review in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

Parents should be aware that significant changes in the treatment of concussion — including a major shift to promoting active recovery — have emerged in recent years, said Hallie Zwibel, DO, Director of Sports Medicine at New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine, and lead researcher on this study.

“It used to be thought that rest was best for a concussion. Kids were told to stay home from school and sit in a dark room for two weeks,” says Dr. Zwibel. “Now we encourage them to get back to school after two days and progressively get more active, so long as symptoms don’t return or worsen.”

The article also cites children’s vulnerability to prolonged symptoms due to underlying conditions, including ADHD, depression, anxiety and stress. Study authors hope their findings can help parents manage expectations and know their best options for treatment.

“It’s important parents understand that symptoms persist in kids for about four weeks on average,” says Dr. Zwibel. “This can be alarming and feel like a long time, especially compared to adults whose symptoms last closer to a week, but it is well within a normal recovery time.”

Researchers say rehabilitation has also proven effective for mitigating symptoms such as dizziness and changes in vision, like difficulty with focus. This includes engaging in visual and vestibular exercises, which assist with balance and spatial orientation. Therapy can help the brain to establish new neurologic pathways to regain function or to bypass disturbing signals.

While active recovery has emerged as the standard of treatment, Dr. Zwibel says athletes should not compete while they are experiencing concussion symptoms. Brain swelling and death can result if an athlete receives a concussive blow while recovering from an earlier concussion. However, getting young athletes to stay off the field during recovery remains a challenge, Dr. Zwibel noted.

“There’s not a good administrative structure to prevent an injured high school athlete from playing for another league,” says Dr. Zwibel. “At this point, parents are in the best position to prevent that and we strongly encourage them to follow return-to-sport protocols.”

Dr. Zwibel also encourages youth sports leagues to adopt and implement these standardized guidelines and seek medical providers’ input when establishing policies and practices.

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Materials provided by American Osteopathic Association. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Injuries associated with infant walkers still sending children to the emergency department

A new study from researchers in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital examined characteristics of infant walker-related injuries and evaluated the effect of the 2010 federal mandatory safety standard on these injuries.

The study, published on-line today in Pediatrics, found that more than 230,000 children younger than 15 months old were treated in hospital emergency departments in the US for infant walker-related injuries from 1990 through 2014. The number of infant walker-related injuries decreased dramatically during the study period, dropping from 20,650 in 1990 to 2,001 in 2014. The overall reduction in injuries was primarily due to a decline in falls down stairs.

The decrease in stair falls was due in part to the implementation of safety standards that required changes to the way infant walkers are designed. In 1997, a voluntary safety standard was adopted that required infant walkers to be wider than a standard doorway or to have a mechanism that would cause it to stop if one of more of the wheels drop over the edge of a step. Then, in June 2010, the CPSC issued a mandatory safety standard that included more stringent requirements for infant walker design, standardized the evaluation method to prevent stair falls, and added a parking brake test. The mandatory safety standard also made it easier for the CPSC to stop non-complying infant walkers at entry points to the US before they entered the marketplace (all 10 infant walkers recalled between 2001 and 2010 were imported products).

While the greatest decrease in injuries occurred during the earlier years of the study, there was an additional 23% drop in injuries in the 4 years after the federal mandatory safety standard went into effect in 2010 compared with the prior 4 years. Researchers concluded that this reduction may, in part, be attributable to the standard as well as other factors such as decreased infant walker use and fewer older infant walkers in homes.

“The good news is that the number of infant walker-related injuries has continued to decrease substantially during the past 25 years,” said Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, senior author of the study and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “However, it is important for families to understand that these products are still causing serious injuries to young children and should not be used.”

Most of the injuries (91%) were to the head or neck, and about 30% of the injuries were concussions/closed head injuries or skull fractures. The three leading causes of injuries were falls down stairs, falls out of the infant walker, and injuries that occurred because the infant walker gave the child access to something they wouldn’t normally be able to reach (mostly burns from hot objects).

“Infant walkers give quick mobility (up to 4 feet per second) to young children before they are developmentally ready. Despite the decrease in injuries over the years, there are still too many serious injuries occurring related to this product,” said Dr. Smith. “Because of this, we support the American Academy of Pediatrics’ call for a ban on the manufacture, sale, and importation of infant walkers in the US.”

Data for this study were obtained from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) database, which is maintained by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. The NEISS database provides information about consumer product-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments across the country.

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Materials provided by Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Household cleaning products may contribute to kids’ overweight by altering their gut microbiota

Commonly used household cleaners could be making children overweight by altering their gut microbiota, suggests a Canadian study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

The study analyzed the gut flora of 757 infants from the general population at age 3-4 months and weight at ages 1 and 3 years, looking at exposure to disinfectants, detergents and eco-friendly products used in the home.

Researchers from across Canada looked at data from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) birth cohort on microbes in infant fecal matter. They used World Health Organization growth charts for body mass index (BMI) scores.

Associations with altered gut flora in babies 3-4 months old were strongest for frequent use of household disinfectants such as multisurface cleaners, which showed lower levels of Haemophilus and Clostridium bacteria but higher levels of Lachnospiraceae. The researchers also observed an increase in Lachnospiraceae bacteria with more frequent cleaning with disinfectants. They did not find the same association with detergents or eco-friendly cleaners. Studies of piglets have found similar changes in the gut microbiome when exposed to aerosol disinfectants.

“We found that infants living in households with disinfectants being used at least weekly were twice as likely to have higher levels of the gut microbes Lachnospiraceae at age 3-4 months; when they were 3 years old, their body mass index was higher than children not exposed to heavy home use of disinfectants as an infant,” said Anita Kozyrskyj, a University of Alberta pediatrics professor, and principal investigator on the SyMBIOTA project, an investigation into how alteration of the infant gut microbiome impacts health.

Babies living in households that used eco-friendly cleaners had different microbiota and were less likely to be overweight as toddlers.

“Those infants growing up in households with heavy use of eco cleaners had much lower levels of the gut microbes Enterobacteriaceae. However, we found no evidence that these gut microbiome changes caused the reduced obesity risk,” she said.

She suggests that the use of eco-friendly products may be linked to healthier overall maternal lifestyles and eating habits, contributing in turn to the healthier gut microbiomes and weight of their infants.

“Antibacterial cleaning products have the capacity to change the environmental microbiome and alter risk for child overweight,” write the authors. “Our study provides novel information regarding the impact of these products on infant gut microbial composition and outcomes of overweight in the same population.”

A related commentary provides perspective on the interesting findings.

“There is biologic plausibility to the finding that early-life exposure to disinfectants may increase risk of childhood obesity through the alterations in bacteria within the Lachnospiraceae family,” write epidemiologists Dr. Noel Mueller and Moira Differding, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in a related commentary.

They call for further studies “to explore the intriguing possibility that use of household disinfectants might contribute to the complex causes of obesity through microbially mediated mechanisms.”

Dr. Kozyrskyj agrees and points to the need for studies that classify cleaning products by their actual ingredients. “The inability to do this was a limitation of our study.”

The research study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) with funding from the Allergy, Genes and Environment (AllerGen) Network of Centres of Excellence for the CHILD study.

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Materials provided by Canadian Medical Association Journal. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

More than half of parents of sleep-deprived teens blame electronics

It’s no secret that many teenagers stay up late to scroll through social media or catch up with friends on phones.

And 56 percent of parents of teens who have sleep troubles believe this use of electronics is hurting their child’s shut-eye.

Forty-three percent of parents report that their teen struggles to fall asleep or wakes up and can’t get back to sleep, according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan. A fourth of these parents say their child experiences occasional sleep problems (one to two nights per week) while 18 percent believe their teen struggles with sleep three or more nights per week.

Not being able to stay off electronics — including social media and cell phones — was the no.1 reason parents cited for sleep disturbance.

Other reasons included irregular sleep schedules due to homework or activities (43 percent), worries about school (31 percent), and concerns about social life (23 percent). Ten percent of parents say their teen’s sleep problems are related to a health condition or medication, cited more often by parents of teens who experience frequent sleep problems.

The new report is based on responses from a nationally representative household survey that included responses from 1,018 parents with at least one child 13-18 years old.

“This poll suggests that sleep problems are common among teens and parents believe late-night use of electronics are a main contributor,” says poll co-director Sarah Clark, M.P.H.

“Teens’ hectic schedules and homework load, as well as anxiety about school performance and peer relationships, also are seen by parents as contributing to sleep problems.”

Parents polled say they’ve encouraged their teen to try different strategies at home to help with sleep problems, including limiting caffeine in the evening (54 percent), turning off electronics and cell phones at bedtime (53 percent), having a snack before bed (44 percent), and natural or herbal remedies, such as melatonin (36 percent). A quarter of parents (28 percent) say their teen has tried some type of medication to address sleep problems.

Forty percent of parents of teens with frequent sleep problems, and 22 percent of parents of teens with occasional sleep problems, say they have talked to a doctor about sleep struggles. Parents who have consulted with doctors say the top recommendations from experts included turning off electronics and cell phones at bedtime (72 percent), adhering to a regular sleep schedule (64 percent), limiting caffeine (47 percent), and taking natural remedies (42 percent).

When doctors recommended medication for teens’ sleep problems, it was twice as likely to be prescription sleep medication rather than over-the-counter sleep or “nighttime” medicine, parents recalled. Yet parents rated over-the-counter sleep medicine as safer for teens than prescription sleep medicine.

“Parents whose teens continue to have frequent sleep problems, despite following recommendations for healthy sleep hygiene, may want to talk with a health care provider, particularly when considering which type of medication to try,” says Clark.

“Inadequate or disrupted sleep can have long-lasting health effects that go beyond moodiness and irritability for teens,” Clark adds.

“Sleep-deprived teens may have difficulty concentrating in school and those who drive have an increased risk of auto accidents. Inadequate sleep has also been linked to health problems ranging from obesity to depression.

Report: https://mottpoll.org/reports/when-teens-cant-sleep

Cord blood clue to respiratory diseases

New research has found children born in the last three months of the year in Melbourne may have a greater risk of developing respiratory diseases such as asthma.

Led by La Trobe University, a team of local (The MACS study) and international (COPSAC2000 and LISAplus) researchers analysed cord blood collected from hundreds of babies born in Melbourne, Denmark and Germany.

They discovered those born during the peak grass pollen season in both hemispheres had high immunoglobulin E (IgE) levels in umbilical cord blood — a marker used to predict the development of allergic diseases.

Lead researcher, Associate Professor Bircan Erbas from La Trobe’s School of Psychology and Public Health, said the aim of the study was to determine the effect of exposure to high grass pollens during pregnancy and soon after birth.

“We know that outdoor pollen exposure during the first couple of months after birth can lead to allergic respiratory diseases and we suspected that exposure during the later stages of pregnancy may also be important,” Associate Professor Erbas said.

“Many studies have shown that babies with high levels of IgE in cord blood can go on to develop allergies later in childhood, but little is known about how these levels are affected by exposure to pollen in utero.”

The researchers found high IgE levels among babies born in October and December in Melbourne.

IgE levels were highest for German and Danish babies born around April — the peak pollen season in Europe.

However, they also found being pregnant for an entire grass pollen season may have a protective effect on babies.

“We found these babies had lower IgE levels. This was a significant finding and indicates the possible development of a sensitisation barrier. However, more research needs to be done and currently we are working on studies to identify the specific risk time periods of pollen exposure during pregnancy on asthma and allergies in children,” Associate Professor Erbas said.

She stressed that the study did not suggest that all babies born during high pollen seasons would develop respiratory disease or other allergies.

“The study provides new insight that could help us predict and manage diseases like asthma — which are a significant public health burden.

“However, it’s important to remember there are a number of factors that can determine who gets asthma or allergies. This is one piece of the puzzle.”

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Materials provided by La Trobe University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.