At the beginning of the 20th century, allergies were still a rarity, but nowadays they have become a common disease and allergies are on the rise. Meanwhile, more and more children are suffering from allergies. Already at school enrollment, 10 to 15 percent of children today suffer from atopic dermatitis and 25 to 30 percent from a pollen allergy. 40 percent of allergy sufferers develop allergic asthma in the absence or lack of medical care in later life years.
Early diagnosis of allergies is important
Childhood allergies often go undetected for too long. With an early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, many allergies can be well controlled and favorably influence the further course of the disease. The early visit to the doctor for symptoms is therefore important, especially in small children. If allergies are not recognized or treated insufficiently, the children are severely limited in their development and in their quality of life.
Who is at risk?
A major risk factor is undoubtedly genetic predisposition. If both parents have allergies, the risk of allergies is more than 30 percent; if only one parent is affected, the risk still amounts to 20 percent. But: not everyone who is genetically preoccupied must inevitably become an allergic person.
Conversely, about 15 percent of all children who are not genetically pre-stressed still develop allergies. The reason: Along with heredity, lifestyle and the environment also play a major role in the development of allergic diseases.
Why do allergies increase?
The reasons are not clear yet. Obviously, in industrialized countries with a high standard of living, allergies are also on the rise. In particular, an excess of hygiene measures around the child or the frequent use of disinfectants contribute to this.
In infancy it is eczema that can be influenced by food, namely cow's milk and chicken's egg white. From the age of two - with the onset of atopic dermatitis - in about half of those affected first asthma symptoms can be felt. Triggers are now - in addition to viral infections - the so-called inhalant allergens, typically mites or animal hair. At school age, very often a pollen allergy is added.
This typical timing is known as the allergy career or allergic march, known in the English literature as "allergic march" or "atopic march". Conversely, this does not mean that all children with atopic dermatitis later develop asthma or hay fever.
Allergies: Recommendations for prevention
Risk children are children whose parents and siblings have allergies and thus have a hereditary predisposition. When people who have a hereditary predisposition often come into contact with allergens, the allergic disease can be much easier and earlier to break out than in people without this predisposition. The likelihood of allergy increases in children at risk increases the less preventive measures are taken.
Smoking: Ensure a smoke-free environment during and after pregnancy and abstain from smoking. Cigarette smoke increases allergic reactions and significantly increases the risk of allergies in both adults and children. A woman who smokes during her pregnancy increases the child's risk of allergy eightfold.
Breastfeeding: In the first months of life (four to six months) children should be breastfed exclusively. For the breastfeeding, a balanced diet is recommended, special diets are not necessary.
Supplements: If complete breastfeeding is not possible, then only low-allergen, so-called hypoallergenic baby food should be given. The introduction of complementary foods is recommended only after the sixth month. It should be noted that only one new food per week is introduced.
Diets are to be rejected without evidence of allergy, as they only cause unnecessary stress for children and parents. High-risk foods such as fresh cow's milk, eggs, fish, nuts, tomatoes, citrus, soy, chocolate, celery and wheat flour should generally not be given throughout the first year of life.
Pets: The former general recommendation of American allergists to banish cats completely from the household has now been put into perspective. However, it is recommended to avoid early contact with animal hair. This applies especially to pets such as cats, dogs or guinea pigs.
House dust mite: The house dust mite is still the most common indoor allergen. Therefore, measures should be taken to ban house dust mite largely from rooms, this is especially true for the sleeping area.
Vaccinations: Vaccination against whooping cough, tetanus, diphtheria and measles reduce the risk of allergies. Experts therefore call for risk children to be vaccinated consistently in accordance with the recommendations of the Standing Vaccination Commission STIKO.
In order to prevent an allergic career in time, it makes sense to pay attention in the first months of life to factors that may favor allergies. Precautionary measures can help reduce the risks of developing allergies later in life.