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Food Allergies in Kids on the Rise

food allergies in kids

Photo credit: iStockPhoto

Apparently I’m not the only one with allergies on the brain. I have a reason to be worried my son might be saddled with food allergies for the rest of his life: skin and food allergies in kids are on the rise. The CDC is reporting 1 in 20 kids have a food allergy, which is a 50% increase since the late 90s. It’s an even bigger increase for skin allergies, up 69% to 1 in 8 kids. Since the data was collected from a parents’ questionnaire and not medical diagnoses it may not be the most accurate set of statistics, but walk into any elementary school and a school nurse will be sure to show you a draw stocked with Epi-pens.

The big question when it comes to an increase in kids’ allergies is “why?”. Ever frustratingly, there’s no clear cut answer- yet. Some doctors guess it’s because we keep our homes so clean these days, using disinfect after disinfect and antibacterial everything. {Clearly these doctors have never been to my not-so-clean house.} Or maybe there’s not really a rise in allergies at all. Maybe parents are just more aware of rashes and skin problems, making them think their child has an allergy when they really don’t. While I may buy into that first theory, I doubt the rise in allergies is because parents are noticing more rashes. That’s like saying parents in the 90s were just oblivious to their kids.

That first theory has been dubbed the “hygiene hypothesis“, meaning our environment is so free of dirt and germs that kids are becoming overly sensitive when they’re finally exposed to these things. Early exposure to bacteria and parasites might help kids’ immune systems develop and fight off potential allergens. By keeping things constantly disinfected and sanitized were actually creating a bigger problem. This seems to go along with the increase in antibiotic resistant infections as the use of antibacterial hand sanitizers and soaps became more and more widespread.

So maybe we should pack up the 50 mini bottles of hand sanitizing gel we have in every bag and drawer and let our kids get a little grimy. I know I certainly do my part in building my son’s immune system by abiding by the 5 second rule for food on the floor.

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