• allergens;
  • animal models;
  • environment;
  • prevention

Allergic diseases continue to increase in prevalence, and now affect over a third of the population in many countries. There is evidence that the increase in such diseases has its origins in early life exposures. Pregnancy or early childhood may therefore be critical periods for preventing the onset of allergic disease, and prenatal interventions are an attractive possibility for a population-based preventive approach. Here we review the data suggesting that prenatal exposures are important in the development of allergic disease, and that interventions during this time might be effective in prevention. We find evidence from both animal and human studies that prenatal interventions can influence the future development of allergic disease. There are a number of mechanisms through which such interventions may act to prevent allergic sensitization. We conclude that prenatal interventions have the potential to reduce the burden of allergic disease, and merit continued investigation. Further research in this area may lead to significant public health initiatives.