WASHINGTON, D.C. (NBC) – Food allergies have more than doubled over the last decade. Yet two-thirds of children who develop one don’t have a parent with one.
Pediatrician Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson said, “You can develop a food allergy at any age. In fact, 50% of people with a food allergy develop it in adulthood”
What’s more frustrating than being unable to enjoy a food you used to love, or keeping specific foods out of the house to prevent an allergic reaction from just one family member?
The most common allergy in children: peanuts. That’s followed by dairy, soy, and tree nuts.
“In adults for example,” Dr. Swanson explained, “shrimp is the most common food allergy, representing about 3% of adults.” And those numbers are on the rise. Dr. Swanson said, “We’ve seen a doubling of food allergies each of the last few decades. And in part, we know genetics play a big part in any kind of medical condition”
The good news is experts are learning more about a major influencing factor: environment.
Dr. Swanson said some parents make a mistake following the hygiene hypothesis. “The idea that you can kind of raise a child in too sterile of an environment and the research that even if you’re raising a baby or toddler in the presence of a dog, it’s good for them an decreases the likelihood that they’ll develop allergies later in life.”
Dr. Swanson said it’s no different with food allergies. “New research over the past five years is helping guide how we actually advise parents to introduce and include foods in a baby and toddler’s diet to help combat the food allergy rates that we’re seeing.”
The first step is to talk to your pediatrician on how to get started. “Make sure that your child’s skin is really maintained,” Dr. Swanson said. “Meaning eczema or dry skin is a risk factor for developing food allergies”
Then get started introducing peanut, dairy, and fish into your child’s diet as young as 4 to 6 month, building a roadmap for a happy and healthier future for your child.
Instead of introducing those foods one by one, Dr. Swanson said it’s best to regularly expose your child to those foods.