Raising Kids to Be Allergy-Free
By Chris Brown
Allergies are on the rise in the United States. Food allergies alone rose by 50 percent from 1997 to 2011. However, allergy paranoia has ironically contributed to this increase. Parents, desperate to protect their children, over-sanitize their child's environment and diet to the point of dooming their baby's untrained immune systems to a future of allergic reactions. By deploying calculated allergen exposure, you can give your child a better chance at an allergy-free life.
What Is an Allergy?
Simply put, an allergy is an overactive immune response to an unharmful foreign substance. During an allergic reaction, a body identifies something harmless as a threat, overreacting to it, and causes illness and inflammation. While susceptibility to allergies is highly genetic, research has shown that there may be ways to reduce the likelihood of allergy development.
Introduce Common Food Allergens Early
Rather than avoid food allergens, it is recommended to slowly introduce common ones (such as peanuts or eggs) into a child's diet as early as possible. Introducing the food in small doses allows the baby's body to process the new product and lets parents monitor for adverse reactions in a controlled environment. Once a food is confirmed as not dangerous, intake amounts of each product can be increased. Still worried about feeding peanuts to your infant? Consider a study conducted by King's College London that found 17 percent of children unexposed to peanuts during their first year had allergies by age 5, whereas only 3 percent of those with early peanut exposure had developed an allergic reaction.
Bring Them Outdoors
It turns out that teaching children about the outdoors may do more than introduce them to nature and provide valuable life skills. Outdoor exposure at a young age exposes their developing immune systems to a large biodiversity of unharmful microbes. In this way, the immune system doesn't overreact when confronted with pollen, grass, or other common outdoor allergens. This seems to hold weight in research. Findings have confirmed that those growing up near farms or forests tend to have less asthma and seasonal allergies than city folk.
Don't Hyper-Sterilize Your Child's Environment
A study conducted in the inner cities of Baltimore, Boston, New York, and St. Louis found that children exposed to "unclean" environments (containing pet dander, cockroach droppings, and mouse dander) before the age of 1 were three times less likely to have asthmatic allergies than those not exposed. While no one is suggesting that children be purposefully placed in filth, the study may be something to consider the next time you're tempted to sterilize your kid's playroom. It seems some exposure at an early age is necessary for children's bodies to adapt to the common irritants of later life.
Regardless of study, children's immune systems mustn't be coddled. Instead, they must be taught (through exposure) that certain irritants are not threats to the body. There appears to be a limited early window where exposure therapy can be utilized to reduce allergy risk. After that window closes, it becomes increasingly difficult to alter one's allergic potential.
To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Simi Valley, Calif.