The Causes of Allergies in Kids: What Parents Need to Know

The Causes of Allergies in Kids: What Parents Need to Know

Allergies can be a cause of concern for many parents of young children. They can cause a wide range of symptoms, including sneezing, itching, and difficulty breathing, which can be uncomfortable or even life-threatening.  

While allergies are a complex condition, they are generally caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Understanding the causes of allergies in kids can help parents take steps to prevent and manage allergies in their children, which can ultimately improve their quality of life and wellness. 


Genetics

One of the most significant factors that contribute to the development of allergies in kids is genetics. Children whose parents have allergies are more likely to develop allergies themselves.   

In a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, researchers analyzed data from nearly 2,000 families with at least one child between the ages of 6 and 18 with a history of allergies. They found that if one parent had an allergy, the child had a 33% chance of developing allergies. If both parents had allergies, the child's risk increased to 70%.  

These findings suggest that genetics play a significant role in the development of allergies in children. While it's impossible to change a child's genetic makeup, understanding the role of genetics in allergies can help parents take steps to manage and prevent allergies in their children. This may include avoiding known allergens and seeking medical treatment if necessary. 

 
Environmental factors   

Environmental factors have a significant impact on the development of allergies in kids. Studies have shown that exposure to air pollution, particularly during pregnancy and early childhood, increases children's risk of allergies and asthma. Secondhand smoke exposure has also been linked to the development of allergies and asthma.  

A study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that children who were exposed to high levels of air pollution in the first year of life had a 50% increased risk of developing allergies and asthma by the age of three. The study also found that exposure to nitrogen dioxide, a common air pollutant, was particularly harmful. Children who were exposed to high levels of nitrogen dioxide in their first year of life had a 46% increased risk of developing allergies and asthma.  

The findings indicate that reducing exposure to air pollution and secondhand smoke may help to prevent or reduce the risk of allergies and asthma in kids. This may involve taking steps to improve indoor air quality, such as using air purifiers or avoiding smoking in the home. 

 

Food Allergens  

Certain foods are more likely to cause allergies than others, and exposure to these foods during pregnancy and breastfeeding may increase the risk of food allergies in children. 

A study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found that mothers who consumed peanuts during pregnancy and breastfeeding were less likely to have children with peanut allergies. This is because exposure to peanuts during these critical periods may help to sensitize the baby's immune system to the food, reducing the risk of an allergic reaction later in life.  

However, exposure to other foods during these critical periods may increase the risk of allergies.  
 
A study published in the journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that children who were exposed to high levels of egg protein during the first year of life were more likely to develop egg allergies. Similarly, exposure to cow's milk protein during the first year of life has been linked to an increased risk of milk allergies. 
 

To reduce the risk of food allergies in children, it is recommended that mothers consume a varied and balanced diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding.  

 Introducing certain allergenic foods, such as peanuts, early in life can help sensitize the immune system. However, it is important to do this under the guidance of a healthcare provider, as introducing allergenic foods too early or in the wrong way may increase the risk of an allergic reaction. 

 

Pet Allergens

While pet allergies are a common type of allergy in children, there is evidence to suggest that exposure to pets can have both positive and negative effects on the development of allergies.  

A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that children who were exposed to cats and dogs in their early year of life were more likely to develop allergies to these animals later in life. The study also found that exposure to cats during pregnancy increased the risk of cat allergies in children.

The study also found that exposure to pets during early childhood may have a protective effect against allergies and asthma, possibly by helping to sensitize the immune system to these allergens. 

It is important to be mindful of the potential risks of pet allergies and take steps to minimize exposure to pets if necessary. Nevertheless, exposure to a variety of environmental bacteria and allergens may also have a protective effect against allergies and asthma. 

Checking the early symptoms and taking steps accordingly is the best thing a parent can do for pets induced allergies. 

 

Hygiene Hypothesis 

The hygiene hypothesis proposes that exposure to microbes during early childhood is important for the development of a healthy immune system and may protect against the development of allergies and autoimmune diseases later in life.   

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that children who grew up on farms and had early exposure to a variety of environmental bacteria and allergens had a lower risk of developing asthma and allergies.   

Another study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that children who were exposed to higher levels of endotoxin, a type of bacteria found in soil, were less likely to develop asthma and allergies.  

Exposure to a variety of environmental microbes and allergens during early childhood may help to train the immune system and protect against the development of allergies in life. 

In conclusion, It is important for parents to take steps to minimize exposure to potential allergens, such as air pollution and secondhand smoke, while also providing opportunities for their children to be exposed to a variety of environmental microbes and allergens in a safe and healthy way. 

Additionally, it may be helpful for parents to work with their healthcare providers to develop a personalized plan for managing their child's allergies, including strategies for avoiding triggers and appropriate treatment options. 
 
 

Works Cited 

Ege, Markus J., et al. “Exposure to Environmental Microorganisms and Childhood Asthma.” New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 364, no. 8, 24 Feb. 2011, pp. 701–709, https://doi.org/10.1056/nejmoa1007302. 

Holt, Patrick G., et al. “Targeting Maternal Immune Function during Pregnancy for Asthma Prevention in Offspring: Harnessing the “Farm Effect”?” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, vol. 146, no. 2, 1 Aug. 2020, pp. 270–272, www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(20)30517-0/fulltext, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2020.04.008. Accessed 29 Mar. 2023. 

Huang, Y., et al. “Prenatal Exposure to Air Pollutants and Childhood Atopic Dermatitis and Allergic Rhinitis by Adoptions of Machine Learning Methods.” ISEE Conference Abstracts, vol. 2020, no. 1, 26 Oct. 2020, https://doi.org/10.1289/isee.2020.virtual.o-sy-2475. Accessed 29 Sept. 2021. 

Pinot de Moira, Angela, et al. “Associations of Early-Life Pet Ownership with Asthma and Allergic Sensitization: A Meta-Analysis of More than 77,000 Children from the EU Child Cohort Network.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, vol. 150, no. 1, 1 July 2022, pp. 82–92, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S009167492200149X, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2022.01.023. Accessed 6 Oct. 2022. 

Tromp, Ilse I. M., et al. “The Introduction of Allergenic Foods and the Development of Reported Wheezing and Eczema in Childhood.” Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, vol. 165, no. 10, 1 Oct. 2011, p. 933, https://doi.org/10.1001/archpediatrics.2011.93. Accessed 24 Feb. 2020. 

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