“Mommy, where is the Claritin?” That is what my first grader asked me just yesterday. She’s only 7 years old, but is already well-versed in allergies. She began to have seasonal allergy symptoms when she was about five, and she is not alone. I’ve noticed that so many of her friends are plagued with itchy eyes and runny noses that accompany the allergians attacking their systems. As it turns out, this is not just a local problem, but a national one.
A recent study surveyed the parents of 80,000 children and found that children born in the United States were more likely to suffer from allergies than their peers born outside the country. Why?
“This is definitely something we see clinically and we’re trying to better understand, what is it in our environment that’s increasing the risk of allergic disease?” said Dr. Ruchi Gupta of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. She told Reuters Health, “Food allergies have increased tremendously. We do see people who come from other countries don’t tend to have it, but immigrants who are maybe second generation, they’re identical (to U.S.-born people).”
But why is this happening? They do not know for sure yet, but Gupta mentioned two possible factors: 1) the so-called hygiene hypothesis, which “suggests kids in the U.S. are too clean, and their immune systems never get exposed to common allergens”, and 2) the poor quality of American diets. Another researcher, Dr. Jonathan Silverberg from Beth Israel Medical Center and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York, said that climate, childhood obesity and perhaps various infections could also be playing a role in kids and their allergies.
“The results of the study suggest that there are environmental factors in the U.S. that trigger allergic disease,” Dr. Silverberg told Reuters Health. “Children born outside the U.S. are likely not exposed to these factors early in life and are therefore less likely to develop allergic diseases.”
Do your kids have allergies? Do you think the environment plays a part?
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