A seasonal effect of month of birth and risk of allergic disease has been suggested by numerous studies. Few studies have directly measured pollen exposures at different points during pregnancy and in early life, and assessed their effects on risk of respiratory disease outcomes.
Pollen exposure was calculated for the first and last 12 weeks of pregnancy and the first 12 weeks of infancy for all children conceived by women residing in Stockholm, Sweden, between 1988 and 1995. Hospital admission data for respiratory conditions in the first year of life was also collected.
Out of 110,381 children, 940 had been hospitalised for asthma by 12-months of age. Pollen levels showed both marked seasonal variations and between year differences. Exposure to high levels of pollen in the last 12 weeks of pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of asthma hospitalisation (aOR = 1.35, 95% CI = 1.07-1.71 for highest quartile versus remaining infants). Exposure to high levels of pollen in the first three months of life was associated with a reduced risk (aOR = 0.76, 95% CI = 0.59-0.98) but only in children of heavy smoking mothers.
High levels of pollen exposure during late pregnancy were somewhat unexpectedly associated with an elevated risk of hospitalisation for asthma within the first year of life.