CHICAGO — Children in the United States are more likely to experience allergies than those in other countries, according to a new study.
The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and based on data from the National Survey of Children's Health, found that children born abroad were less likely to experience pediatric allergies, asthma, hay fever, eczema and food allergies until they moved to the United States, and their odds of developing hay fever and eczema increased after living here for more than 10 years. More than half of all Americans suffer from allergies, compared to just 20% of people in the United Kingdom, while the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates of asthma, and remote areas of Africa and South America have almost no allergies.
"Genetics do play a role in a child's sensitivity and predisposition to allergies, but when kids are relocated to the U.S., environmental factors are added to the mix," said Brian Rotskoff, an allergy specialist at Chicago-based Clarity Allergy Center. "Repeated exposure to our surroundings and lifestyle changes causes allergy symptoms to emerge."
Allergy triggers in the U.S., according to the study, include seasonal changes in weather and pollen counts; diverse plant life; diets high in processed foods; overuse of antibiotics; environmental pollutants; and high-stress lifestyles.