Allergies now and then


MHS has a Nut Allergy Safe Zone table in the cafeteria for sudents with nut allergies. Allergies in children haven increased by 18 percent over the past decade. -Photo by Rebecca Holcomb

By Rebecca Holcomb, Round Table Reporter

Middletown High School has a Nut Allergy Safe Zone table for the students with nut allergies. Allergies in children have increased 18 percent over the past decade.
-Photo by Rebecca Holcomb

 As a mother sent her child to school in the year 2000, what did she worry about? She worried about the safety of the school, what kinds of grades her child would get, and whether or not her child would make friends. Today, many mothers have one more thing to worry about: their child’s allergies.

Studies have shown that over that past decade the number of children with food allergies have increased by 18 percent. Students in Frederick County Public Schools are now required to fill out a health form specifying medical concerns and the allergies they have.

 But why do children seem to be developing allergies much more rapidly than 10 years ago?

Some scientists believe it is due to the environment children are now more commonly being raised in. They call it the Hygiene Hypothesis, which also explains why children in “westernized” countries are much more likely to develop allergies than children in a “developing” country.

This hypothesis speculates that the increase in allergies is due to the fact that children are becoming more unexposed to allergens. The body needs to be exposed to something in order to become immune to it.

Kaylie Miller, Middletown High School senior, developed an allergy toward wheat and gluten in seventh grade. Her doctors have used a similar explanation to the Hygiene Hypothesis.

“My digestive system lost some of its ability to fight, digest, and recognize the pesticides commonly found in foods containing wheat and gluten,” Miller explained.

Others believe that the number of children with allergies is due to technological advances facilitating the over-diagnosis of allergies. MHS chemistry teacher David Thomas agrees with this argument. He is amazed by the way an allergy test is now conducted.

 “They go up your arm and test different things to see if you react to it,” Thomas explained.

Thomas has also noticed that students seem to be developing more “obscure allergies” over the years such as latex, chicken and turkey, and an artificial hormone used in beef cows.

 As far as addressing the issue, many aren’t sure what path to take.

 Miller believes the solution is all about “food awareness”.

 “As the years have passed, food companies have come out with more allergy-friendly food that actually tastes good,” Miller commented. “Coping with allergies has become tolerable.”