Season of birth and childhood food allergy in Australia


  • IMS Australia is the actual name of a commercial company, and the letters used in the manuscript do not represent an abbreviation.

Raymond James Mullins, Consultant Physician, Clinical Immunology and Allergy, Suite 1, John James Medical Centre, 175 Strickland Crescent, Deakin ACT 2600, Australia
Tel.: +61-2-6282 2568
Fax: +61-2-6282 2526


To cite this article: Mullins RJ, Clark S, Katelaris C, Smith V, Solley G, Camargo CA, Jr. Season of birth and childhood food allergy in Australia. Pediatric Allergy Immunology 2011; 22: 583–589.


Background:  Recent studies suggest a possible role for low ultraviolet radiation exposure and low vitamin D status as a risk factor for food allergy. We hypothesized that children born in autumn/winter months (less sun exposure) might have higher food allergy rates than those born in spring/summer.

Methods:  We compared IgE-mediated food allergy rates by season of birth in 835 children aged 0–4 yr assessed 1995–2009 in a specialist referral clinic, using population births as controls. To address potential concerns about generalizability, we also examined national prescriptions for adrenaline autoinjectors (2007) and infant hypoallergenic formula (2006–2007).

Results:  Although live births in the general ACT population showed no seasonal pattern (50% autumn/winter vs. 50% spring/summer), autumn/winter births were more common than spring/summer births among food allergy patients (57% vs. 43%; p < 0.001). The same seasonal pattern was observed with peanut (60% vs. 40%; p < 0.001) and egg (58% vs. 42%; p = 0.003). Regional UVR intensity was correlated with relative rate of overall food allergy (β, −1.83; p = 0.05) and peanut allergy (β, −3.27; p = 0.01). National data showed that autumn/winter births also were more common among children prescribed EpiPens (54% vs. 46%; p < 0.001) and infant hypoallergenic formula (54% vs. 46%; p < 0.001).

Conclusions:  The significantly higher rates of food allergy in children born autumn/winter (compared to spring/summer), the relationship between relative food allergy rates and monthly UVR, combined with national adrenaline autoinjector and infant hypoallergenic formula prescription data, suggest that ultraviolet light exposure/vitamin D status may be one of many potential factors contributing to childhood food allergy pathogenesis.