Apr 18, 2007

Kids Allergies On The Rise Around the Globe

"allergic-to-nuts-tshirt.gifWe're all aware that people with allergies to nuts must be particularly careful around them because they can prove to trigger a fatal reaction. In fact, the kids in my school have a designated "Peanut Free" table just to keep them from any possible danger. But did you know that the number of young children with peanut allergies literally doubled between 1997 and 2002, according to a survey conducted in 2003? In fact, there are about 2.2 million U.S. school-age children who have food allergies, and roughly 1 out of 17 children under the age of 3 has a food allergy as well according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. And it's not just in the U.S. either, as children's allergies across the board from asthma and allergic skin diseases to hay fever and allergies to eggs, wheat and dairy products have increased worldwide according to a survey released in August 2006 that looked at more than 700,000 children in 56 countries since 1991. Now that's comprehensive! And while the reasons for the troubling increase are unclear for the moment, there are a number of ideas about the ways in which humans are impacting our environment that could be to blame..."

One points to the fact that the life in the First World has become so incredibly clean and antiseptic that kids immune systems aren't being challenged sufficiently to develop resistance, while another points out that the antibiotics so frequently used to combat childhood infections may be to blame by hindering the development of the friendly bacteria found in the intestinal tract that aid the immune system in warding off allergens. Another idea points to an increase in environmental pollutants, changes in diet, and food-processing techniques that could also be playing a role; while yet another reason could be simply that doctors are diagnosing more allergies now than in previous generations. Whatever the true cause is we're not likely to find out in a hurry, but the overriding truth is that of the reasons given above, the only one that does not have some connection to the way in which humans are impacting our environment in some way is the last… And that may be food for thought as we make decisions that have implications for our own children, and for those around the world.