If you’ve ever had hay fever, you are all too aware of how unpleasant a pollen allergy can be. When your kids are young, you can’t help but wonder if they’ll inherit your seasonal allergies. Other substances — such as dust, pet dander, and certain types of food — are also cause for concern.
Do You Know How Allergies Develop?
It’s true that allergies often run in families. However, allergy development is partly environmental, and you can take steps to reduce your children’s risk of developing allergies. If you or your spouse suddenly has runny eyes and a stuffy nose, keep reading: Adult-onset allergies are real.
While immunologists still don’t know exactly how children and adults develop allergies, they do know that pollen allergies are more common in wealthy, industrialized nations than less developed countries.
The theory is that sanitation is higher in rich countries, which reduces our exposure to outdoor allergens and gives our immune systems less time to adjust.
Whether pollen allergies are preventable or not is unclear. Thankfully, you can help decrease your child’s risk of developing another common allergy — dust mites.
Unlike food allergies, early exposure to dust mites increases the risk of developing an allergic reaction. You can reduce the amount of dust mites in your child’s bedroom by using allergen-proof bedding, washing sheets in hot water every week, and removing carpet from the room (if possible).
Another easy way to reduce the amount of allergens in your home is to keep the windows closed during hay fever season. Also keep in mind that biological agents and dust mites love humidity, so it’s a good idea to keep your home’s humidity levels under 50 percent.
In the past, doctors advised parents to delay their children’s contact with eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, seafood, and other common food allergens. Research now shows that delaying contact increases, rather than decreases, your child’s risk of developing food allergies.
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (AAAAI), it’s better to gradually introduce these foods between 4 and 6 months of age after your child has shown tolerance to less allergenic food.
Are you pregnant or nursing? You’ll be happy to hear that you can keep eating soy, tree nuts, and other high-allergy foods. Your baby won’t develop allergies from the food you eat.
Even though allergies usually appear early in life, they can develop during adulthood.
Fifteen percent of food allergies have an adult onset, although nobody understands why these allergies occur. However, immunologists can partly explain why adults develop environmental allergies.
Your immune system may react when you move to a markedly different environment, such as an area that has higher levels of outdoor pollution or unfamiliar types of tree pollen.
In other cases, you may have had the allergy all along, and the symptoms were so mild that you didn’t notice them until they got worse.
We’ve listed above only a few of the most common allergies. If you suspect that your child is allergic to other substances, stay safe and have your child’s doctor refer your child to an allergist.