Report: US-born kids have higher risk of allergies - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Report: US-born kids have higher risk of allergies

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Watery eyes, swelling, and sneezing are common signs of an allergic reaction. But, this is an all too familiar experience for many of American children.

"They're very different, definitely different from when I was growing up," said Dina Flores, with Escuelita Del Alma, a Spanish immersion childcare center.

"We end up now with children who have mortal allergies to nuts...strawberries...a lot of asthma...it varies, but definitely lots more than what we've encountered in the past," said Flores.

A recent report in JAMA Pediatrics shows 11 percent of kids suffer from asthma and up to 20 percent experience some reaction to allergens like pollen, dust, and foods.

One UT student said, "It gets really bad during lacrosse season. It's like my throat closes up and I can't breathe as well and it gets really heavy and it feels like something is compressing my chest, so that definitely affects my asthma."

Dr. Pooja Varshney, with Dell Children's Hospital, said, "We can estimate that 1-2 kids per classroom will have a food allergy, which is really vastly different from where we were 20 or 30 years ago."

"I broke out in chicken pocks and had a fever and I was sick for about a week," said one UT student.

The survey findings come from more than 91,000 children, between the ages of 0 - 17, who participated in the 2007-2008 National Survey of Children's Health.

Dr. Varshney said, "One of the most popular theories is called the hygiene hypothesis and this is the idea that our immune system no longer has to fight against infections like hook worms and parasites that used to be a problem for young children decades ago and so now, the immune system is attacking substances that aren't really dangerous to us."

Currently, there's not enough information to explain why this trend continues, but doctors say there is a healthy balance between keeping clean...and letting your immune system develop.

"Having those kids go outside and roll around in the dirt probably isn't going to hurt them," added Dr. Varshney.

The scientists found children born outside of the U.S. were less likely to develop asthma or allergies compared to those born in the U.S. and foreign-born children who lived in America for more than 10 years were three times as likely to develop allergic diseases compared to those who spent less than two years stateside.

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