DOCTORS are to expose babies to dust mites in an attempt to halt the rising allergy epidemic.
Experts hope that exposing tots under one year old to the common allergen -- often found in pillows, mattresses and on carpets -- when their immune systems are developing will prevent them becoming allergic in the future.
A total of 120 babies aged five to nine months with a family history of allergy will take part in the project.
It is being conducted at the respiratory biomedical research unit at the University Hospital Southampton and the David Hide Asthma and Allergy Research Centre on the Isle of Wight.
As many as one in four people in the UK are affected at some time in their lives, with children accounting for half of those affected.
Dust mites are the most prevalent trigger, inducing reactions in 85pc of asthmatic people.
Prof Graham Roberts, a specialist in allergies, said: "We hope that by giving babies an allergen when their immune systems are working out what is and isn't harmful will teach their bodies to not become susceptible as they grow up."
Professor Hasan Arshad, director of the research centre, said: "We need to act very early in life -- before babies reach their first birthday -- and this should reduce the development of asthma and other allergies."