Allergies in kids on the rise, says new report
Food and skin allergies among American children have spiked in recent years, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, the rate of respiratory allergies, the most common allergy among kids, stayed the same.
Researchers used data collected for the CDC’s, National Center for Health Statistics along with survey answers from U.S. Census Bureau for the study.
Specifically, the research found that among children aged 0–17 years, the prevalence of food allergies increased from 3.4 percent in 1997–1999 to 5.1 percent in 2009–2011. The prevalence of skin allergies also increased from 7.4 percent in 1997–1999 to 12.5 percent in 2009–2011.
Hispanic children had lower rates of all three allergies compared with children of other races. Non-Hispanic black children were more likely to have skin allergies and less likely to have respiratory allergies compared with non-Hispanic white children, the report said.
The report didn’t speculate on the cause of the spikes in food and skin allergies.
Dr. Joel Klein, an allergy specialist at Advocate Condell Medical Center, Libertyville, Ill., and Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, Park Ridge, Ill., says he’s seen an increase, particularly in food allergies, in his practice. It’s different from the old days.
“Many middle-aged adults, like me, can’t recall any schoolmates with food allergies when we were growing up. Some children with a food allergy have no family history of it,” Dr. Klein says.
He says the reasons aren’t clear and need further study.
“There are many theories, mainly coming from a focus on peanut allergies,” he says. “One theory, known as the hygiene hypothesis, is that when parents try to prevent their children’s infections or over-treat an infection during the first two years of a child’s life, they prevent the immune system from developing certain processes that would not reject certain foods, like peanuts.”
It’s important for parents to visit health care professionals who can properly diagnose a food allergy and make reasonable judgments on which foods to avoid and how to treat allergic reactions, Dr. Klein said.
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