Sibship size and prevalence of allergic disorders in Japan: the Ryukyus Child Health Study.Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2009 Jun; 20(4):377-84.PA
A number of epidemiological studies have reported an inverse association between increasing sibship size and allergic disorders. The present cross-sectional study assessed the association between the number of siblings and the prevalence of allergic disorders during the past 12 months in Japanese schoolchildren. Study subjects were 22,750 children aged 6-15 yr in Okinawa. The outcomes were based on diagnostic criteria from the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood. Adjustment was made for age, gender, maternal age at childbirth, duration of breastfeeding, region of residence, smoking in the household, paternal and maternal history of asthma, atopic eczema, and allergic rhinitis, and paternal and maternal educational level. Significant exposure-response associations were observed between increasing total sibship size and all outcomes under investigation. Having two or more older siblings was significantly inversely related to the prevalence of atopic eczema and allergic rhinoconjunctivitis, but not wheeze or asthma. Having two or more younger siblings was independently associated with a decreased prevalence of atopic eczema, but not wheeze, asthma, or allergic rhinoconjunctivitis. The inverse relationships between sibship size and the prevalence of allergic disorders under study were weakened with advancing age, although the interactions between age groups were not statistically significant. No significant interactions were found in the association of having three or more siblings with allergic disorders between children with a positive or negative parental allergic history. These results are likely to support the in utero programming hypothesis because it is probable that the in utero environment would change with parity, although our observations could not refute the hygiene hypothesis.