It’s official: kids born in the US are much more likely to develop allergies than kids from other countries, according to a recent study performed by the National Survey of Children’s Health. Interestingly, the researchers in the study are not quite sure why US-born children are more likely to develop allergies, but there are a couple viable theories.
The researchers did their homework and made sure to account for factors such as socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and race, etc. The results of the study made it abundantly clear that there are environmental (and maybe some cultural) factors that causes US-born citizens to develop allergies.
Theory 1: The Hygiene Hypothesis
The hygiene hypothesis is simply that kids living in a more hygienic situation (such as the one experienced by kids living in the highly industrialized United States) have less exposure to infection and germs early on. Ironically, some researchers theorize that this does not allow for the development of a healthy immune system.
This does not mean that the new order of the day should be to cover our kids in dirt. By all means keep your home as germ free as you wish. However, other research in support of the hygiene hypothesis has found that allowing children ample time to play outside is a good thing.
Theory 2: Allergy-Preventing Cultural Practices
Let’s face it; people from countries outside of the US are more likely to eat a healthier diet. There’s a definite reason obesity is a rising problem in America. The cultural theory of allergy development is simply that Americans (generally speaking) have unhealthier lifestyles and eat unhealthier foods.
Some foreigners also eat diets rich in certain spices and nutrients that western cultures tend to avoid entirely. For example curcumin (a spice somewhat related to ginger and used in Indian cooking) has anti-allergenic properties, but is not usually a spice one would include in American cooking.
Whatever the underlying environmental or cultural causes of child allergies happen to be, there are still measures you can take to alleviate your child’s symptoms. The first step is to determine the immediate causes of your child’s allergies.
The following are some common triggers of allergies:
- Pet dander
- Scented chemicals (fumes from paint or aerosols, perfumes, etc.)
- Bug droppings (cockroaches, dust mites, etc.)
Fortunately, many of these allergens can be eliminated from your child’s immediate environment by taking a few simple measures. One of the easiest measures is to have your AC systems checked to make sure pollen isn’t getting into your home.
You may also want to eliminate or reduce the amount of rugs, draperies, curtains, and even stuffed animals your child comes in contact with. Vacuum and dust frequently. Be sure your vacuum uses HEPA filters. Wash your child’s bedding frequently. Taking a few simple actions can really help to decrease your child’s allergy symptoms.