Why Do Our Children Have Food Allergies?

Why Do Our Children Have Food Allergies?

Do you suffer from allergies? Then read on.

The amount of people suffering from food allergies has dramatically increased in recent years.

Many theories have been suggested and explored as to why allergies are on the rise in recent times, from an increase in hygiene to changes in diet to spending more time indoors. Yet these theories don’t adequately explain all the aspects seen in the data.

Why do our children have food allergies? Food allergies are when the body’s immune system reacts badly to certain foods. Food allergies can be very serious especially for someone with eczema. The symptoms of having food allergies or being intolerant of certain foods can manifest themselves in different ways. Some common symptoms include Red and inflamed skin, Itchy sensation, sore mouth and red patches on the skin.

Interestingly, this increasing trend in the number of children developing allergies is one that is particularly prevalent in westernized countries, such as the UK, and the United States, and Australia. Research has shown that when children of an African or East Asian descent are raised in these Western nations, their risk of developing an allergy quickly rises to match those of resident Caucasian children.

This suggests that there are some environmental or cultural factors in these places that are behind the observed increases in allergies. But it also raises the interesting question that as developing nations grow, and populations adopt a more westernized lifestyle, will the levels of childhood allergies rise too? If that is the case, then healthcare costs will also increase.

One of the most common reasons given for the increase in allergies in the Western world is what is known as the hygiene hypothesis. A lot of people think that our obsession with cleaning and ever-increasing hygiene standards – particularly when it comes to children and food – means that we are not exposed to as many allergens or microorganisms as we used to be.

Have Western nations lost touch with the natural bacteria in the environment? Songquan Deng/Shutterstock
Have Western nations lost touch with the natural bacteria in the environment? Songquan Deng/Shutterstock

It is argued that because the immune system has in effect been shielded from common allergens as a child grows up when they then experience these triggers later in life, their immune system simply over-reacts and an allergy is formed. Many suggest that this is exacerbated by over-cleanliness in our homes. It might also be related to the fact that, in general, we are spending less and less time outside.

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This dovetails into another theory proposed by Professor Graham Rook, which suggests that over the last century or so we have lost touch with a lot of the “good” bacteria once found all over our skin, in our guts, and probably lining our throats.

Professor Rook calls this the old friends” mechanism, and it’s related to the hygiene hypothesis. The “old friends” mechanism argues that it’s not the increase in cleanliness that is driving allergies. In fact, our increase in hygiene has done more good than harm considering its critical role in preventing the spread of disease-causing pathogens. Instead, it is our lifestyle that has changed, and this, as a result, has caused a disconnect between us and these old bacterial friends.

The shift from being outside to inside is notable because the bacteria we as children are now exposed to have radically altered. There is no doubt that kids are exposed to fewer bacteria, in both number and diversity, and this could in part be behind the creeping number of reported allergies.

Spending less and less time outside and away from animals in Western nations could be contributing to the rise of allergies. OctoberSonata/Shutterstock 
Spending less and less time outside and away from animals in Western nations could be contributing to the rise of allergies. OctoberSonata/Shutterstock

This is not a radically new idea, as it has previously been noted that children growing up on farms are far less susceptible to allergies. For example, those who grow up on farms around animals are half as likely to develop hay fever, while exposure to dogs can cut the risk of getting asthma by up to 13 percent.

But researchers are also looking into another potential driver behind the ever-growing number of children developing allergies: diet. Could the changes in what people in the Western world have been eating over the last half-century contribute to more allergies? Some certainly think so.

As strongly as one camp says that exposing children at an early age to certain common allergens, such as eggs and peanuts, will reduce the likelihood that they will then go on to develop an allergy to that food, the other camp says that children should be avoiding it.

Strangely, there may even be a link between a child’s diet and their risk of developing hay fever, which is not usually thought to be related to food. A study asking over 4,000 parents about their children’s diet and their resulting allergies found that children fed fish at least once a month when they were one year of age were up to 30 percent less likely to develop an allergic reaction to pollen.

This is not the first time that fish has been found to have an effect on the allergy rate in kids, and some suggest that it could be down to the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the food. It has been argued that this molecule has an anti-inflammatory effect, while the oils found in vegetable oils – which are becoming more prevalent in Western diets – have the opposite effect.

It might not only be the child’s diet, however, that can have an impact on their chances of developing an allergy. What the mother eats while pregnant and breastfeeding could be significant too. Interestingly, new research has found that women who took fish oil supplements while pregnant had kids who were 30 percent less likely to have an egg allergy, while those who regularly took probiotics had children 22 percent less likely to develop eczema.

There is some evidence to suggest that the oils found in fish might help reduce the risk of developing allergies. Lapina/Shutterstock 
There is some evidence to suggest that the oils found in fish might help reduce the risk of developing allergies. Lapina/Shutterstock

Some recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding women avoid foods such as peanuts, dairy, and eggs, with the logic that the proteins can pass to the baby. But the same study that found fish oil supplements were a benefit, also reported no evidence that any other aspects of a mother’s diet had an impact.

As you have probably figured out by now, the whole field of allergies – be it food, asthma, or hay fever – and their rise in modern times is a convoluted one. Just as there is no single gene for height and no simple cure for cancer, there is likely no silver bullet for allergies. The best rule to follow is what we should all being doing anyway, and that is if you are in any way concerned, listen to what your doctor has to say about your own situation.

What’s the connection between Eczema and Allergies?

What’s the connection between Eczema and Allergies?


What’s the connection between Eczema and Allergies?

Eczema and allergies, what are the connections? Well.. Case studies have shown that if one or both parents have eczema, asthma, or seasonal allergies, their child is more likely to have eczema.

Did you as a child have Eczema and now suffer from hayfever or asthma?

Scientists are still studying the link between the conditions, understanding the connection can help you manage the symptoms.

What Is Eczema and Who Gets It?

Eczema ( Atopic dermatitis) is the term for many different skin conditions, some of which look very similar but need to be treated differently. Most of the time, it refers to a common skin disease called Atopic dermatitis, which causes a dry, itchy, red rash. If you scratch your skin, it can start to ooze and crust over and become infected. Do it over a long period of time, and your skin can get thick and dark with hard patches and scaring.

Many people get eczema as a child and often grow out of the condition. Eczema and allergies have always run side by side. The Symptoms can often improve by age 5 or 6, and flare-ups stop for more than half of kids by their teenage years. However, many people still have this terrible skin condition as adults, though their symptoms tend to be milder. It’s less common to get eczema for the first time as an adult but not unknown.

Allergy & Eczema Connections

Many times I’ve been asked ‘ eczema and allergies, what are the connections? Most types of eczema are not allergies. The disease can flare up when you’re around things that cause an allergic reaction. Your body’s immune system overreacts to substances called allergens that are usually not harmful. You might get hives, itching, swelling, sneezing, and a runny nose. Allergens can include:

  • Dust mites
  • Pollen
  • Pet dander
  • Some foods
 Children with eczema are also more likely to have food allergies, such as to eggs, nuts, or milk. They often make eczema symptoms worse for kids but not for adults.

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Research on the Link

At one time scientists thought that all types of eczema were caused by allergies. Now we know that the connection is more complicated. Researchers are still uncovering new details about the causes of eczema that may lead to better treatments.

Some recent areas of study include

Genes: Researchers have found that some people with the condition have a gene flaw that causes a lack of a type of protein, called filaggrin, in their skin. It helps form the protective outer layer of our skin and keeps out germs and more. A lack of filaggrin dries out and weakens that skin barrier. This makes skin vulnerable to irritants, like soaps and detergents. It also makes it easier for allergens to get into the body. Scientists believe that that makes people more sensitive to those allergens and even some foods.

How the body reacts to allergens: Some research has found that people with eczema may have a defect in their skin barrier. Small gaps in the skin making it dry out quickly, and let germs and allergens into the body. When allergens enter the skin, they prompt the body to make chemicals that lead to redness and swelling, called inflammation. Research also points to a problem with a type of white blood cell that releases chemicals that help control allergic reactions in the body. This may help explain why people with eczema have outbreaks when they’re around allergens.

Too many antibodies: Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is a type of antibody that plays a role in the body’s allergic response. People with eczema have higher-than-normal levels of it. Researchers are working to understand why people with the skin condition make too much IgE and what role this may play in the disease.

Interesting fact: Light can make you sneeze!

Did you know that one-third of people have a condition that causes them to sneeze when they look at bright lights? Just going outside on a sunny day can cause some people to sneeze. Known as photic sneezing, this condition often runs in families.

 Try to protect your eyes with sunglasses, and put them on before you leave the house this will help to reduce your sneezing.

Avoid Allergy Triggers to Prevent Flare-Ups

How to manage eczema, you need to moisturize daily and take your medication as your doctor prescribes. It also helps to try and avoid anything that can cause an allergy trigger.

  • Keep an eczema journal. Write down where you were and what you were doing when your symptoms flared up. It can help you figure out what things might be triggering them. Share the journal with your doctor during appointments.
  • Stay away from things that irritate your skin. Common ones include wool, soaps and detergents, perfume, chemicals, sand, and cigarette smoke.
  • Avoid allergy triggers. Pollen, mold, pet dander, dust mites, and other allergens may make eczema flare up. You could try a dust-proof mattress and pillow covers, remove carpets, avoid contact with animals, and stay indoors when pollen counts are high.

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Treatments for summer Allergies and Hayfever

A daily over-the-counter (OTC) antiallergy pill or intranasal spray may be enough to control your symptoms. Common OTC antihistamine tablet choices include cetirizine (Zyrtec), fexofenadine (Allegra), and loratadine (Claritin, Alavert). Glucocorticosteroid intranasal sprays available over the counter include fluticasone propionate (Flonase) and triamcinolone acetonide (Nasacort).

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Your doctor may be able to prescribe medication therapy that, depending on your insurance plan, might be more affordable.

Another helpful blog: What’s the best sunblock for children with eczema

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