Are food allergies getting worse?
When I was a kid it was unheard of for one of my classmates to have food allergies. None of my peers remember this happening when we were kids. Nowadays food allergies are not in the majority of kids, but it does feel more frequent. Instead of a school having a few children with food allergies, each class has a handful.
It feels like food allergies in children is significantly increasing, and for the most part, that’s true.
So why is this happening?
There is no one answer to the increase of food allergies in children. Scientific studies in food allergies are widespread and prevalent and we're learning more and more about allergies each year. Here are two of the major arguments for why we may be seeing an increase in food allergies.
Genetics increasing food allergies in children
One of the reasons can be attributed to genetics. As generations have developed allergies, they are passing them on their children. According to AllergyUK, a child’s risk to allergies is doubled if one parent has an allergy. This risk is raised to 60%-80% when both parents have an allergy.
The Cleanliness Theory
There is also a common theory that our cleanliness as a society has led to us becoming more vulnerable to allergies. Children are less exposed to animals, dirt, and above all, germs which actually train our immune system to behave normally. Too much cleanliness might suppress the natural development of the immune system.
The theory may also explain why kids are more at risk for food allergies. It has taught us to focus on training the immune system very early on to avoid developing allergies. An example of this theory being put to work is the recent studies done on peanut allergies with infants exposed to peanuts. These studies have shown that infants could be less at risk to a peanut allergy when they’re exposed to peanuts early on and when their mothers eat peanuts during pregnancy.
Another reason that food allergies seem to be on such a significant rise is because of the increased awareness. There are numerous organizations like FARE and FAACT that have increased the awareness of what food allergies are and how scary they can be. These groups, along with movements like The Teal Pumpkin Project, do a great deal in spreading the word about food allergies.