Do you dread that time of the season when you or a loved one gets itchy skin, watery eyes, runny nose, and congestion? Or having to avoid certain foods to prevent wheezing, abdominal pain, and hives? If you have experienced any of these common allergy symptoms, you aren’t alone – and, according to health officials, more and more Americans are joining you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recently indicated that there has been an alarming increase in the number of skin and food allergies among the population, and they are striving to figure out why.
The CDC data shows that 1 in 20 American children suffer from a food allergy. This is a 50 percent increase over the number of children who reported food allergies in the late 1990’s. And when it comes to skin, there appears to be an overwhelming 69 percent increase in the allergy, which is about one in eight children.
Some skin and food allergies can be mild, or simply temporary. In fact, doctors report that many children simply grow out of the specific allergy. Food allergies pose the most panic, especially in schools. Most schools across North America have adopted a no-peanut policy, fearful that anyone who may be allergic will come in contact with the food and go into anaphylactic shock. When someone goes into this type of shock, the blood vessels dilate with a sharp drop in blood pressure. Bronchial spasms along with shortness of breath might also occur. At this point, emergency treatment is necessary for this individual.
While scientists have a long way to go in uncovering the mystery behind the increase in allergic reactions in the last decade, there are more theories developing based on a groundbreaking preliminary study.
It is thought that children in North America tend to grow up in very clean households. The Hygiene Hypothesis suggests that our children are too clean, that their immune systems never get exposed to common allergens, making them more sensitive to things that trigger allergies. For example, many years ago, children were exposed to lots of animals from farms, but today the majority live in cities or urban areas where exposure to animals is limited. This low exposure to environmental micro-organisms could result in our kids developing weaker immune responses, therefore becoming more prone to allergic reactions.
Other researchers in the United Kingdom are examining the relationship between levels of vitamin D and the development of allergies. They have theorized that over time, we have turned to more processed foods with fewer of the nutrients we need to protect us against food allergies. Vitamin D is important to maintain a strong immune system, and research shows that vitamin D deficiency is an increasing problem in America.
Other nutrients and their link to allergies are also being thoroughly researched, including Omega-3 fatty acids.
Studies in both Europe and the United States indicate that genetics also play a role in whether we will develop allergies. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American, thirty thousand people visit emergency rooms in the United States for food allergies each year. And of these, unfortunately, about two hundred result in death.
Many people believe their allergies are due to their genetic make-up. Evidence shows that children, whose parents suffer from allergies, have a 60-80 percent increased risk of developing or inheriting allergies. Interestingly, the particular type of allergy the parent has is not significant; having any allergy could be innate. For instance, while both parents could have an allergy to a specific food, the child might have a strong allergy to pollen.
People who have allergies can experience such mild symptoms that they don’t require any treatment or only require a mild solution, like allergy pills. However, there are those who have a really hard time coping, due to severe symptoms that might require medical attention. These people should not suffer in silence; they should seek medical advice about the safest and most appropriate solutions to the burden of allergies.
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