If you think you’re hearing more and more about food allergies in children these days, you’re not imagining things. As it turns out, food allergies and their accompanying emergency room visits are on the rise – not only in America, but also in other developed countries around the world. Why all of the sudden does it seem like so many children are allergic to some type of food or food additives?
Food Allergies In Children Are Nothing New
Truth be told, people have always been allergic to something in varying degrees, be it peanuts, poison ivy, or pollen. Some childhood allergies, such as milk, egg, and soy, can actually be outgrown. Other allergies that usually show themselves during childhood, such as shellfish, fish, or tree nut tend to last a lifetime. An allergic reaction can range anywhere from feeling slight itchy to full on (and potentially fatal) anaphylaxis, and can be triggered by even tiny amounts of the offending substance.
Same Allergies – More People
Two other food allergies, wheat and peanuts, in addition to the six mentioned previously, account for 90% of all allergic reactions when it comes to eating. While the allergies have not changed, the number of people suffering from them certainly has. From 1997 to 2007, the number of children with some kind of food allergy increased 18 percent according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In startling contrast, a 2013 CDC study reported that childhood food allergies jumped 50 percent from 1997 to 2011 – just four additional years! The increase is obvious – but why is it happening?
Hygiene Theory As A Cause of Food Allergy
Theories to explain the sudden rise vary from a lack of Vitamin D from the sun to excess folic acid in the diets of expectant mothers. But they may all tie in to another argument based on what’s known as the Hygiene Theory. Basically, it says that with all of the antibiotics and anti-bacterial wipes, soaps, and sprays out there, kids aren’t exposed to enough germs while their immune systems mature. With fewer real threats to the body’s health, the immune system identifies other, less harmful substances as the enemy and attacks them instead. It’s still a theory, of course, but it does seem to show some promise as more research continues.