Vaginal delivery and breast-feeding diminish the incidence of allergy and asthma in children up to the age of 18 years, according to new research.

"This is one of the largest cohorts of its kind in the country — it's a longitudinal study," said David Hill, MD, PhD, from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "It's not a snapshot in time in a child's life."

Hill and his colleagues compared the records of 158,422 children to see how the method birth and feeding practice influenced the number of allergic conditions reported by each young person over a period of 18 years.

We have studies looking at the effect of breast-feeding or birth method for a single condition, Hill he told Medscape Medical News, "but we wanted to know the risk of progression throughout the allergic march. We wanted to see the compounded degree of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality because of these characteristics in early life."

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