The influence of sunlight exposure and sun protecting behaviours on allergic outcomes in early childhood

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The dramatic rise in allergic disease has occurred in tandem with recent environmental changes and increasing indoor lifestyle culture. While multifactorial, one consistent allergy risk factor has been reduced sunlight exposure. However, vitamin D supplementation studies have been disappointing in preventing allergy, raising possible independent effects of ultraviolet (UV) light exposure. The aim of this study was to examine whether UV light exposure influences the development of allergic disease in early childhood. Direct sunlight exposure (290–380 nm) in early infancy was measured via UV dosimeters. Outdoor exposure, sun protective behaviours, and allergy outcomes were assessed over the first 2.5 years of life with clinical assessment appointments at 3, 6, 12 and 30 months of age. Children with eczema had less (p = 0.038) direct UV light exposure between 0-3 months of age (median (IQR) 747 (473–1439) J/m2) than children without eczema (median (IQR) 1204 (1717–1843) J/m2); and less outdoor exposure time (7 min/day) between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. compared to children without eczema (20 min/day, p = 0.011). These associations were seen independent of vitamin D status, and after adjusting for other potential confounders. Whilst we could not find any associations between direct UV light exposure and other allergic disease outcomes, exposure to UV light appears to be beneficial in reducing the risk of eczema development in early childhood. Further research is required to determine optimal levels of UV light exposure while balancing the potential risks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5429
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2021


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