Skip to main content

Want To Avoid Allergies? Keep Your Kids Poor and Dirty.

What is it with newspapers and their crazy (one might even say prejudiced) conclusions about food allergies?

The latest study "summary" I read was entitled "The Downside of a Good Education: Food Allergies." The article opens with the following shot over the bow:
"People from well-educated families are almost twice as likely to suffer from some dangerous food allergies as others — possibly because their bodies’ natural defences have been lowered by rigorous hygiene and infection control, suggests a new Canadian study."
Really? The article seems to be saying that those with less education are somehow dirtier than the rest of their brethren, and therefore better protected. Can that really be true? And is it really what this study said?

To find out, I looked up the original study, which has a much less incendiary title of "Demographic Predictors of Peanut, Tree Nut, Fish, Shellfish, and Sesame Allergy in Canada." What does the article actually say, you ask?
"Peanut, tree nut, and sesame allergy were more common in children, while fish and shellfish allergy were more common in adults. Tree nut and shellfish allergy were less common in males. Shellfish allergy was more common in urban settings. Higher household education was associated with increased likelihood of allergy to peanut, tree, fish, and sesame although it reached significance only for tree nut. All food allergies were less common in immigrants although large CIs preclude definitive conclusions except for shellfish." 
The study goes on to speculate as to why this might be the case. Some of the reasons given are those oft trotted out: more antibiotics, more hand washing, less overcrowding. You know - poor people being dirtier. However, the studies cited at the end of this paper give an intriguing peak at other identified risk factors:
  • Vitamin supplementation in exclusively formula-fed children. 1
  • Cutaneous (skin) sensitization. 2
  • Common epitopes from soy formula triggering peanut sensitization. 3
  • Fungus on walls at home and renovation/painting in the house during pregnancy. 4
A final study I've never forgotten is the markedly regional skew (to the northern states) in the number of Epi-Pen(r) prescriptions. As the paper's brief summary notes, this may be linked to Vitamin D deficiency.

So...besides overcrowding and dirt, how might these interesting tidbits tie together with parental (and specifically maternal) education level?
  • Better educated (and therefore presumably wealthier) parents can better afford vitamin supplements.
  • They may choose more expensive skin products for their children that contain sensitizing plant proteins.
  • They may try more expensive soy formula options if milk-based formula causes sensitivities.
  • They may paint and remodel more prior to their baby's birth (due to availability of money/home ownership).
  • They may be more likely to use sunscreen (potentially causing or exacerbating Vit. D deficiency).
Are any of these the smoking gun? We'll never know if researchers and news outlets stop at the cultural conclusion that poor people are simply dirtier.

Popular posts from this blog

Taking The High Road With Food Allergies (Sometimes)

I was getting all ready to write a post about how grateful I am. You of those count-down-to-Thanksgiving posts where I list all the people or things that have helped me along the way.

And I am grateful. Really. Having virtual friends who have traveled this same food-allergy road is a wonderful gift. I can name so many times when my panic and frustration were alleviated by someone I've never even met in real life, but who took the time to give me a tip, or to console me.

But frankly, my lovely gratitude post went out the window when I received this email from a relative:

What can we bring to share? I have some ideas: Sweet Potatoes glazed with Chutney and Ginger, Green beans with Dijon and Caper sauce, Creamed Green beans with Dill sauce, or whatever you request.   I am aware of [FAB's son] dietary restriction.

My son is allergic to beans. We avoid all beans. Even green beans. The doctor was surprised by this, as green beans are the least allergenic of the bean family, b…

Beans, Beans and More (or Less) Allergenic Beans!

We have a little good news this week: my son passed a home bean challenge for both pinto and cannellini (white) beans last night. Hooray!

At our last allergist visit, they ran the numbers on a number of varieties of beans and many were Class 0, with values like 0.68. My son's doctor thought it was reasonable to try these at home.

Going to stop for a moment and interject: DON'T DO THIS WITHOUT YOUR DOCTOR'S DIRECTION. A lot of things go into whether home challenges are a good idea for your child: how serious the allergen typically is, how far the hospital, how experienced the parents are with recognizing reactions. Many doctors are not comfortable with this at all. But, in our case, it makes sense to do some challenges at home because my son tests slightly allergic to dozens of foods.

He has avoided all beans since around age five, when he started developing new allergies. First it was tuna. Then cashews. Then (to our great surprise), he suddenly became allergic to garbonzo be…

Best Food Allergy Tweets/Posts From 2013 ACAAI Meeting

Sorry, guys...I've been very busy the last couple of weeks, but just over a week ago one of the largest allergy and asthma conferences, the annual American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, was tweeting its brains out.

Here were the tweets and (virtual) presentations I thought were most interesting:

ACE inhibitors are often used to treat high blood pressure. I believe Lisinopril was the one specifically mentioned. This goes hand in hand with the idea that older patients, especially men, can see changes in the severity of their allergic reactions as they age.

Here's an answer on the question many of us asked about component testing. Just as with RAST, the number itself doesn't matter; just the positive result.

Gross! But yes, give your kids the bobber after the dog/ brother/ mailman licked it.

Conversely, tree-nut-allergic individuals have a 30% incidence of concurrent peanut allergy. 
So stop blaming yourselves, FA mommies! I've said this consistently - Mother Natur…