It seems like every week there's a new study releasing its results with yet another guess as to why allergies and asthma are presenting at increased rates. Is antibiotic use in early life to blame? Or maybe it's a lack of a particular bacteria in the gut? Or (and, oh my god, this is ridiculous), could moisturizing your baby prevent allergies? While I'm really happy research is being done to find the root cause(s) of allergies and asthma, I think we can agree that none of these theories has provided real answers thus far, and releasing the far-flung theories does more harm than good. You can imagine, then, that I was a little skeptical when I first heard about the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study.
But, as it turns out, I believe the study is really working towards helpful answers!
The CHILD Study aims to find out whether lifestyle, surroundings, foods, indoor environments or other factors have an affect on whether a person develops asthma, and/or eczema, and/or allergies. With a cohort of more than 3500 Canadian families, that's a whole lot of data they're collecting! Since the beginning, 3629 families have been recruited! Per the study's website, "The cohort population is ethnically, environmentally, socioeconomically and culturally diverse; over 25% of parents report non-Caucasian ethnicity, reflecting the general structure of the Canadian population."
The impact of the study will be great and include:
• Public health-based prevention strategies for asthma & allergic diseases
• Environmental exposure regulations & policies
• Safe home product standards & regulation
• Food safety regulations & policies
• Personalized healthcare
• Urban planning & home design
• Maternal-child health in Canada & globally
• Prenatal care (diet, nutrition) guidelines
• Pediatric allergy & asthma guidelines
• Novel therapeutic targets for drug discovery & exposure modulation
• Medical and allied healthcare professional education curricula
I've had the pleasure of speaking to one of the study participants, Jennifer Geneve (of LaVigne Organic Skincare), whose daughter Vienna is involved in the study. Geneve has been part of the study since 2010 when she was about half-way through her pregnancy with Vienna. The study has tracked Vienna from that ultrasound (even taking cord blood at her birth) through to present day. I find the entire process of the study so fascinating, especially considering its length. While pregnant, Geneve had specific blood work done specifically for the study, and her husband had allergy and breathing tests (as he has mild eczema and previously used an inhaler for asthma).
And now that there is just a year and a half left in the study, Vienna has participated in many observations including allergy skin tests. They've had home visits for environmental/lifestyle assessments, and visited the study clinic when Vienna was one year old, and again when she turned three. Every six months, Geneve must fill out surveys asking if Vienna has taken any medications, which foods she's eating, which materials her foods are contained/heated in, how many colds she's had, and the details of her illnesses. They report any unscheduled doctor's visits, and whether they've moved, and how many hours of Vienna's days are spent indoors, outdoors, or elsewhere. In addition, Geneve reports on her stress levels and happiness. Can you imagine?
Talk about intense details — and the fact that this is all for the benefit of others is amazing to me! The CHILD Study is conducting this longitudinal study to try and uncover exactly where we can find the root causes of eczema, asthma and allergies, and so far, I'd say they've got the best chance of doing so. I look forward to following along as they release updated information, and most definitely to the conclusion of the study.
Thanks to all the families helping to find answers, and all the researchers investing time and money into this issue!