50%1 of children in the UK now have some form of allergic condition. Why is this figure so high? It would seem that the rise in allergic sufferers could stem from a number of contributing factors.
There are however, factors that might serve to reduce the risks in some way. It would seem that the delaying of the introduction of solid foods into a child's diet until six months old can provide a protective effect against the on set of allergies.
It is also becoming increasingly apparent that frequent exposure to minor viral and bacterial infections in early life can also reduce the likelihood of the development of atopic and allergic disease. This is because early life infections encourage the production of interferon gamma which is found in higher levels among non allergic people and is therefore believed to help in the process of reducing risk.2
There is suggestion that the immune system needs to come into contact with a variety of micro-organisms and bacteria while it is developing at the infant stage, in order that it responds appropriately later in life. Since we use cleaners containing anti-microbial agents, and food preparation is more hygienic than ever are we getting the exposure suggested? Our diets too have changed over the years and include more processed foods and less fresh fruit and vegetables. There is a thought that the increase in food allergy might be due to more allergenic foods, such as peanut, in our diets.3