More and more children are being diagnosed with allergies every year. However, treatment options and awareness have also risen dramatically. Great strides have been made in treating allergies and the latest therapies are making parenting a child with allergies much easier.
Research in recent years has exploded and many allergy-anxious parents are beginning to see signs that their children may be able to live their lives without their disease hanging over them. The amount of progress that has been made toward developing treatments and understanding the causes of food allergies is amazing. The scientific revolution is giving parents hope they never dreamed of.
Then: Food Allergies Were Publicly Ignored
Food allergies used to be absent from the cultural radar. In fact, so neglected were food allergies that emergency medical techs were often unprepared to handle allergic reactions. There was a legitimate chance that calling 911 as recently as a decade ago could trigger the arrival of an EMT without epinephrine or who had it but was unsure how to use it.
Allergic kids were also counseled to keep their allergies a secret because they would get teased for being different. This silence put them at greater risk. This is a pattern you often see at work with any kind of addiction may it be meth addiction or alcohol addiction. Addicts cover up their problem because they are aware of the stigma and by doing do put themselves at greater risk of negative outcomes.
Now: People Are Both Allergy Savvy and More Accepting
Over 40 states have passed laws since 2001 that require EMTs to always carry epinephrine with them. And, most states allow young people to carry their own EpiPens with them to school to be prepared in case of an allergy attack.
Kids with allergies still know that they are different, but research shows that they feel no more social stress than children without allergies. In part, this is because food allergies appear in popular culture with increasing regularity and the issue is also important to policy makers.
Part of the reason for the heightened awareness comes from the growing number of children with allergies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report the frequency of allergies rose almost 20 percent between 1997 and 2007. Now, food allergies affect 8 percent of children under 4-years-old. This means more kids face their own allergies or come in contact with peers who have them.
Then: Parents Were Cautioned to Avoid Introducing Certain Foods
Pediatricians, in an effort to prevent the development of allergies, advised parents with a history of food allergies to wait until their children were older before giving them foods that caused allergies. This meant kids weren’t allowed to have eggs until they were two and fish, peanuts, and tree nuts were avoided until age three. The thinking was that a child’s immune system had to be better developed before it could grapple with allergen-prone foods.
Now: There Is No Recommendation to Delay Foods
When a lack of evidence supporting a delay was considered, the American Academy of Pediatrics withdrew their support of avoiding allergens until a child was older. In fact, some medical professionals now believe that a postponement of allergenic foods may cause children to be more likely to have an adverse reaction. Evidence has led some researchers to believe there is a point in a child’s development (not too late and not too early) that the immune system is best able to tolerate certain foods, although experts don’t know why this is the case.
If you are concerned about your child, talk to their pediatrician. You might be able to introduce allergen-prone foods—like milk, eggs, and nuts—much earlier than you think. The timing will depend upon your family’s history, your comfort offering the foods, and whether your child shows other signs of allergy (like eczema). If you have an infant and are just thinking ahead, experts indicate breastfeeding for four months or longer can lower the risk of developing food allergies.