Allergies triggered by over-cleaning
EXTENSIVE cleanliness could be doing your child more harm than good, according to a Curtin University researcher.
Australia has one of the highest rates of food allergies in the world, with research suggesting about one in 10 babies will develop a food allergy. There is currently no known cures for allergies, only ways to manage them.
However, school of pharmacy professor Andrew Crowe believed there were steps parents could take to reduce the risk of an allergy developing in a child.
Dr Crowe said while scientists had yet to understand why allergic reactions often occurred to foods like peanuts, he believed part of the blame lay in the lack of diversity a child’s immune system experienced.
“Allergies aren’t caused by just one thing, it’s a combination of factors, but cleanliness does have an impact,” Dr Crowe said. “We clean our surroundings with so many chemicals, and iPads and things are just keeping kids inside in a bleached environment.”
Dr Crowe said that today’s children, compared to their counterparts from hundreds of years ago, stayed indoors and away from dirty more, thus handicapping their immune systems.
“If we create an artificially clean environment, the body becomes hyper-triggered to find things that are bad,” he said. “The immune system is expecting to see something to fight off, so if kids are back playing in the dirt or climbing trees, the body will experience the environment on a cellular level and be able to distinguish the real threats.”
Years ago, babies would eat the same food as adults, just in a pureed form.
This meant post breast-feeding babies were most likely exposed to all food groups.
“Parents should be pureeing the food they eat rather than buying specialised baby food,” Dr Crowe said.
The most common food allergies included peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, shellfish, cow’s milk, wheat and soy.
These allergies have always been common but have been steadily increasing.
Last week was Food Allergy Week. More information is at www.foodallergyaware.com.au.