Parents do all they can to keep their children safe from life's potential dangers. They teach them to watch for traffic when crossing the street and make sure bicycle helmets are firmly in place before riding to a friend's house. But sometimes it’s the hidden dangers that have more and more parents in an almost constant worried state. Childhood food allergies have increased twofold since the 2007 data released by the CDC. That means that about 6 million kids in the U.S. alone could suffer serious consequences when exposed to certain foods.Understanding allergies.
Allergies occur from a hypersensitive or over-reactive immune system. In the majority of cases, our bodies can tell the difference between harmless substances and those that could be potentially dangerous, such as bacteria and viruses. But in a person with allergies, this mechanism goes haywire. The body reacts swiftly and intensely to substances that are not normally dangerous. That means if an individual who has an allergy eats, touches, are even inhales the substance he or she is allergic to, the immune system wages a counterattack.
A recent clinical study revealed that approximately 8% of children are at risk for difficulty in breathing, a drop in blood pressure, and even death. The study included 40,000 households all over the United States. Parents were recruited through random phone calls and then took part in online surveys and interviews. The information gathered led experts to believe that food allergies among the young have taken a dramatic upswing.Why are allergies on the rise?
According to the CDC, there are eight types of food that are responsible for 90% of all food allergies in children. These foods include eggs, fish, peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts, milk, wheat, and soy. But why are some children allergic while others are not?
The experts tell us that allergies are primarily a hereditary condition. Though genetic traits certainly play a major role, long-term exposure to a hazardous environment riddled with pesticides, pollution, and tobacco smoke can trigger allergic reactions. When you consider the toxic state of our world today, it’s easy to understand why allergies are on an upward spiral.
In addition to food allergies, some people suffer with food intolerances
. With intolerance the physical reactions usually stem from digestive problems. For example, people who are lactose intolerant lack sufficient digestive enzymes needed to break down lactose. For that reason they are considered lactose intolerant, but the immune system isn't involved. Also, food intolerances usually grow stronger with age
, while allergies get worse with exposure
Parents of allergic children understand far too well that allergies are a serious matter. The reactions can be relatively mild and include a swollen face and lips, eyes, itching, or an eczema flare-up. But the severe cases can result in anaphylactic shock, which is potentially life-threatening. Children with severe allergic reactions experience trouble breathing, vomiting, wheezing, coughing, and their airways can swell to a dangerous level.
Though preventing allergy attacks is certainly challenging during childhood, allergies against eggs, milk and wheat are often tolerated better with age. But peanuts, shellfish, and tree nuts are often a lifetime threat.
As any parent of an allergic child will tell you, EpiPens (an epinephrine shot) and antihistamines are as much a component of a child’s school backpack as pencils and paper. But the best attack against allergic reactions is prevention
. That means closely scrutinizing labels, asking questions at restaurants, and packing safe food just in case.