Food allergies have become so common that almost 15 million Americans face the dangers of having a mild to severe allergic reaction. In fact, according to Food Allergy Research and Education, food allergies affect 1 in every 13 children (under the age of 18) and the economic cost of food allergies is about $25 billion per year.

It was not always like this, however, and food allergies among children, particularly, were nearly 50% lower back in 1997. Although researchers are not certain as to why food allergies have been on such a dramatic rise, there are several current hypotheses to explain this phenomenon. 


It is a fact that genetics play a factor in susceptibility to a number of food allergies. High-risk groups include children with a parent with any type of allergy or allergy-induced condition, including asthma, eczema, or hay fever. Perhaps counterintuitive, this means that a child who has a parent with any allergic disease, regardless of the type, is more likely to develop a food allergy.

The Hygiene Hypothesis

According to the Mayo Clinic, "The hygiene hypothesis proposes that childhood exposure to germs and certain infections help the immune system develop." According to this theory, the environment we have created today is "too clean" and due to this, our bodies sometimes have trouble differentiating harmless substances from destructive, allergy-inducing ones.


Did you know that some cosmetic products can cause food allergies? Studies have shown that our bodies can be exposed to potential allergens through skin products and creams. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, some people can experience an allergic reaction to some foods for the first time after applying a product that includes that ingredient.

This can be problematic in light of the increased number of current cosmetic products that use ingredients such as goat milk, coconut milk or oil, or nut oil. The application of these products onto damaged skin can cause food allergen sensitization, sometimes leading to a severe reaction when the food is next eaten.  


In the past, parents were advised to keep their children from foods that commonly cause allergies. However, Harvard Medical School has reported on a study confirming that babies who were given one of the eight main food allergens (milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans) were less likely to develop an allergy to that food.

Cautionary advice, though, is to avoid this method if the child or any member of the family has a suspected or known food allergy, and particularly to stay away from whole peanuts and raw eggs. Instead, small amounts of peanut butter or cooked eggs should be given to the child.

Finally, a doctor should always be notified first about any dietary changes or about any suspicions of possible food allergies.