Childhood Psychological Disorders: Current Controversies

By Alberto M. Bursztyn | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
The Impact of Food Allergies on Social
and Emotional Development

Suzanne Huber


Introduction

After we boarded the plane, the flight attendant announced that there was a
small child on board who was severely allergic to peanuts and so they would
not be serving peanuts on board. She also requested that we not eat peanut
snacks we brought on board ourselves. I was so angry. I am going to write
them a letter. That’s a violation of my civil rights!
(As told to a parent of
a toddler with a peanut allergy by her close friend.)

There is increasing discussion about food allergies, especially about children with food allergies. Until recently, many people were unaware of the severity of food allergies, and many adults have no memory of other kids having food allergies when they were growing up. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the number of children with food allergies increased 18 percent from 1997 to 2007 for children under the age of 18. There are a number of theories about why the rate of food allergies in children is increasing at such an alarming rate; most of the evidence relates back to changes in the environment. The primary theory that explains the increase is known as the hygiene hypothesis. A basic explanation of this theory is that the immune system was designed to fight infections, parasites, and bacteria, but because in developed nations there are fewer organisms for the developing immune system to fight, the immune system finds things that would ordinarily be harmless and attacks them, such as food particles. Some scientists speculate that the immune system is sitting idle, looking for other invaders to fight off, resulting in food particles and particles in the air (i.e., pollen, dust, etc.)

-145-

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