I love my friend Joan (not her real name) but I hate going to dinner with her. This is because Joan is allergic to fish. She's also allergic to any kind of nut. Also to mustard. And a bunch of other foods. Let's just say finding a place for us to eat is an or-deeee-al. But I feel really bad for her. This isn't just an allergy that will make her sneeze, she could die if she eats the wrong thing.
And there are a lot of people just like my friend. May is the month to be aware of them since it's National Asthma and Allergy Awareness month. In fact, if you're reading this, there's a good chance you have allergies or asthma, because 50 million Americans have them. That's one out of every 16 people. A-choo!
And asthma and allergies are an epidemic with our kids. Asthma is the leading cause of school absenteeism. From 1980 to 1984, there was a 160 percent increase in children under 5 who had allergies. Kids with allergies are so common that there's a line of T-shirts for them.
I'm happy to say that I'm one of the few people I know who has no allergies. Not to any food, no medications, no pollen, no animals, nothing. At least, not that I've become aware of yet. I grew up running around outside, dirty as a hog in mud, with dozens of pets. Could there be some correlation between that and my lack of allergies?
Some studies have pointed to our overuse of anti-bacterial soaps, hand sanitizers, and other cleanliness products as a culprit in the allergy epidemic. We may have decreased our capacity to fight off germs. All of the germ killer means we're not giving ourselves the chance to build up an immunity to germs. Of course, there are plenty of other theories -- like increased pollution and processed foods.
When I was a kid, which wasn't that long ago, I knew one girl in our entire school who had asthma. I didn't know anyone with a food allergy. That doesn't mean they didn't exist, but I didn't know them or hear about them. Now, you'd have to have your head in the sand not to know a kid with asthma or allergies.
And maybe that is what we should all do with our kids? Stick them in the sand. And not wash their hands afterwards. Unless, of course, they have an allergy to sand.
Do your kids have allergies? What are you theories about the increase in them?
Image via abbybatchelder/ Flickr