Allergies: Serious Hidden Health Risk for Obese Children
Sixteen percent of U.S. children and young adults aged 2 to 19 are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The percentage of overweight and obese kids has been growing steadily since the 1970s, to the extent that the CDC’s Healthy People initiative identified overweight and obesity as 1 of 10 leading health indicators and called for a reduction in the proportion of children and adolescents who are overweight or obese.
Allergy is the third most common chronic disease among children under 18 years old, and obese kids have a 26 percent greater risk of having some type of allergy than kids of average weight.
Unfortunately, the United States has made little progress toward that goal.
As children get older, losing weight can become increasingly difficult, as according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, a child who is obese between the ages of 10 and 13 and who is obese has an 80 percent chance of becoming an obese adult.
These extra pounds can quickly lead to a host of health problems. Among them is type 2 diabetes, which experts suggest may also become an epidemic among young adults as a result of the childhood obesity epidemic.
Overweight children are also at an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, but perhaps most concerning of all, a review by obesity researcher David Ludwig of Children’s Hospital Boston, epidemiologist S. Jay Olshansky of the University of Illinois at Chicago, and colleagues found that if the current epidemic of child and adolescent obesity continues, life expectancy could be shortened by two to five years in the coming decades.
A new study recently published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology has also revealed another risk for obese kids, one that is not yet widely known: allergies.
Obese Children Have an Increased Risk of Allergies
Researchers analyzed data from 4,000 children and young adults aged 2 to 19, looking at factors such as body weight, antibody levels to indoor, outdoor and food allergens and responses to an allergy-related questionnaire.
They found obese children and young adults are 26 percent more likely to have some kind of allergy, and 59 percent more likely to have a food allergy.
“We found a positive association between obesity and allergies,” Dr. Darryl Zeldin, acting clinical director at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, who led the study, told Reuters.
While it’s not clear from the study whether obesity causes allergies, it points out the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight in kids as a strategy to help lower the risk of allergies and asthma.
Obesity… Three points of measure:
- Waist measurement doubled is same or greater than height
- According to the CDC, For adults, overweight and obesity ranges are determined by using weight and height to calculate a number called the “body mass index” (BMI). BMI is used because, for most people, it correlates with their amount of body fat.
- An adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.
- An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.
- For children and teens, BMI ranges above a normal weight have different labels (at risk of overweight and overweight). Additionally, BMI ranges for children and teens are defined so that they take into account normal differences in body fat between boys and girls and differences in body fat at various ages. For more information about BMI for children and teens (also called BMI-for-age), visit BMI for Children and Teens.
What Causes Allergies, and Why are They Dangerous?
Allergies occur when your immune system overreacts to a substance that normally shouldn’t cause a reaction. The event sets off a chemical chain reaction, namely the release of histamine which leads to allergy symptoms (typically wherever the histamine is released).
Common allergy symptoms are nasal congestion, runny nose, post nasal drip, itching in your eyes, nose, ears or throat, and sneezing. Skin rash, vomiting and diarrhea can also occur, particularly with food allergies.
In people with severe allergies, the reaction impacts your entire body, and the histamine can cause your blood vessels to dilate and your blood pressure to decrease. Your throat may also become swollen, blocking your ability to breathe.
Along with trouble breathing, wheezing, hives, itching and a weak or rapid pulse, you may also feel faint, dizzy, or nauseous during an anaphylactic reaction. Further, because the event can stop your breathing or your heartbeat, it can be fatal within minutes.
How to Help Your Child With Allergies
Allergy is the third most common chronic disease among children under 18 years old, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Along with obesity being a risk factor, allergies also appear to have a genetic component.
If one parent has allergies, there’s a one in three chance that their child will have an allergy. If both parents have allergies there’s a seven in 10 chance their children will too.
Keeping your home well dusted using antimicrobial microfiber cloths, mops and dusters is one of the best steps you can take to ease your child’s allergy symptoms.
So what can you do to help give your child relief?
The most common cause of allergies and one that affects 20 million Americans is dust mites. Dust mites are microscopic so they aren’t visible to the human eye. They live primarily on tiny flakes of human skin that are shed each day and their preferred places of residence include carpeting, mattresses, house dust, stuffed animals and bedding — and their favorite room of the house is the bedroom.
They can also be found in tiny particles of feathers, dander from cats and dogs, bacteria, food, plant and insect parts, mold and fungus spores. It’s the dust mite waste that causes the allergic reaction, not the dust mite creature itself.
One of the most effective ways to eliminate dust mites by a whopping 90 percent is replacing carpeting with hard wood floors, but since this may not be an option for everyone there are specific cleaning tips you can use to minimize dust mite allergens in your home.
To start, keep on top of the dust in your home and clean it up daily if possible with antimicrobial microfiber cloths, mops and dusters. Antimicrobial Microfiber mops, dusters, towels and more are used by leading hospitals and other health care organizations. Rather than just pushing dust around, or worse, stirring it up into the air, microfiber mops, dusters and towels are made with positively charged ultramicrofibers that pick up everything in their path — including dust and all of its microscopic attachments.
Look for antimicrobial microfiber cleaning supplies that have built-in antimicrobial protection that removes many pathogens in their path with polyester-polyamide conjugated filament in the range of 4-6 microns (as bacteria range from 2 – 8 microns) which is thereby smaller than most bacteria.
Antimicrobial microfiber cleaning supplies are hypoallergenic making them perfect for those with allergies.
You should also vacuum frequently with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate) filter. This type of filter will help prevent dust from stirring up in the air, as dust mite particles can remain airborne for up to 15 minutes following vacuuming. Damp dusting with a microfiber cloth immediately after vacuuming will help minimize dust distribution. Don’t forget to vacuum any other fabric items in the house such as upholstered furniture and draperies. If your child is highly allergic to dust mites it’s best to have him or her wear a dust mask while you’re vacuuming nearby.
You can also:
- Protect your bedding with allergen-impenetrable encasings. Invest in these covers as a protective barrier against dust mites. Put them on your mattresses, box springs and pillows. Do not try to save money by skipping out on the mattress pad cover thinking that it’s not needed because your body doesn’t come in direct contact with it. This is a large misconception as studies have shown that unless all parts of the bed are covered, the entire bed becomes reinfested in a short amount of time. These items can be purchased through allergy supply companies as well as department stores that sell bedding.
- Wash bedding and kids’ stuffed toys in hot water every other week. The water temperature needs to be at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit to kill the dust mites. Don’t forget to wash your throw rugs whenever possible.
- Reduce the humidity in your home. Dust mites are very content living in temperatures of 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit and enjoy relative humidity levels of 70 percent to 80 percent. For this reason, you’ll want to keep your humidity levels somewhere between 30 percent to 45 percent. This can be done by turning on the air conditioner and for the cooler months, investing in a dehumidifier.
- Try nasal cleansing. Nasal cleansing, also known as nasal irrigation, involves using a neti pot to pour a lukewarm saline solution (pure water mixed with natural salt) inside one side of your nostril while tilting your head sideways so the water runs out of your other nostril. This cleansing helps to reduce dust, pollen and other allergens in your nasal passages. Regular neti pot users often report that nasal cleansing relieves nasal allergy and sinus symptoms even better than over-the-counter medications.
- Filter your home’s air — many allergic reactions are triggered by airborne particles. Use an air-purifying filter that migrates through the area and neutralizes organic odors, microbes, & molds at their source can produce fresh clean air throughout your home uniformly, by addressing the pollutant source.
- Use strategically placed doormats. An astounding 85 percent of household “dirt” is carried into your house from the outside, so strategically placing high-quality mats in highly trafficed areas like entrances can dramatically reduce the amount of dirt, dust and allergens that are tracked into your home (and spread via your indoor air).
It is key to use the right type of mats — AVOID cotton, coir and other fibers, and wood and metal mats, as they can increase versus help the problem.
How to Help Your Child Reach a Healthy Weight
Since overweight and obesity put kids at an increased risk of numerous health problems, even above and beyond allergies, it’s important to make a commitment to helping him or her get healthy.
Kids gain weight for many of the same reasons that adults do, and often this is tied to eating too many unhealthy foods and not staying active enough. Stressful life events, such as divorce, a move, or a death in the family can also contribute.
Helping your child adapt healthier lifestyle habits should be a positive step taken by your entire family, and should include your good example and support. The following steps, made gradually over time, can go a long way toward helping your child to not only lose weight but also lead a healthier life:
- Eat meals together as a family. Studies show children whose families ate meals together often consumed more fruits and vegetables and fewer snack foods than those who did not.
- Decrease the time your child watches TV and plays video games or spends at the computer. Numerous studies link TV watching in particular to obesity, as it encourages snacking, exposes kids to junk-food marketing messages and promotes inactivity.
- Avoid using food as a reward.
- Use healthy foods as well as healthy snacks, and keep an ample supply of them around the house.
- Encourage your child to do active things like going for walks, walking the dog, washing the car, playing sports or tag with friends, etc. You can also enroll kids in specially designed exercise programs for kids. Recent research suggests that this type of exercise not only reduces depression and anxiety, but also helps to reduce anger and aggressive behavior in kids. You can even exercise along with your child, using at-home DVDs.
- Limit fast food meals.
- Include more nutritious meals in your family’s daily diet (try the recipes in “Alive in 5”: Raw Gourmet Meals in Five Minutes for some delicious and fast ideas)
- Eliminate and REPLACE sweetened drinks like soda from your house with health tasty alternative beverages that give you the flavor you crave without all the extra calories and unhealthy soda additives.
- Plan your meals for the week so you don’t end up going for take-out at the last minute.
- Pack a healthy lunch for your child to take to school.