Food and Skin Allergies Becoming More Common in Children


Allergies are on the rise, and I’m not talking about the allergies related to the outdoors that are so prevalent this time of the year.

Food and skin allergies among children have skyrocketed over the past decade according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control out today. The big mystery is why are these allergies becoming more present in youth?

I sat down with NewsRadio 1080 KRLD to talk about some surprising information about food and skin allergies. Listen to the audio from our conversation.

Q:  Why is the new report from the CDC causing so much concern among parents and educators?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) report/findings used the responses of an annual survey taken by thousands of adults and parents from 1997-1999 and compared them to those from 2009-2011. The survey asked parents if their child had any food or digestive allergy, skin or respiratory allergy over the past year. The results were very interesting and are center to the discussion.

According to the study, 1 in 20 U.S. children have food allergies, a shocking 50 percent increase from the late 90s. The study also revealed that 1 in 8 children have eczema and other skin allergies, an increase of 69 percent from the 90s.

However, the study did find no increase in respiratory allergies over the years. But it did reveal that both food and respiratory allergies are more common in higher income households, whereas skin allergies and eczema are more common in poorer households.

African American children are at highest risk for skin allergies as compared to Caucasian or Hispanic children.

Q:  Are there any theories on why there is such a marked rise in allergies among our kids? What are they and do they have any merit?

A popular theory is called “The Hygiene Hypothesis” that suggests that our households are so clean and disinfected and that we overuse antibiotics, so the lack of exposure to germs early on in life causes a lack of natural immunity to certain allergies that we are bound to encounter.

Studies have lent some merit to this hypothesis—for example, foreign born children tend to have fewer allergies.

Some people suspect that the changes in the way food is grown, for example, cross-bred wheat and hormones/antibiotics in cattle, is a contributing factor although there is no research to back this up yet.

It’s important to keep in mind that this study surveyed parents. Parents may think their child has an allergy to a food but might not after being examined by a medical professional or otherwise tests.

Q:  Is there anything that parents can do to prevent their kids from developing allergies?

In the past, medical professional groups recommended that families with a history of food allergies or eczema wait before attempting to introduce their young kids to foods tied to severe allergies like peanuts, milk and eggs.

However, this advice seems to have been wrong and in fact increases the likelihood of allergies in those kids when the foods were delayed and might actually account for some of the rise in allergies.

People shouldn’t stop cleaning their houses or seeking to remove allergens that might make their kids sick. It’s important also to be careful and use caution when using antibioitcs

About the author

David Winter, MD
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David Winter, MD, is an internal medicine physician on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Signature Medicine – Tom Landry.

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Food and Skin Allergies Becoming More Common in Children