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What’s Your Family Tree of Allergies?

When our son, Morgan, was first diagnosed with food allergies at 18 months old, we weren’t too surprised given the Family Tree of Allergies that exist in our family. Yet, I hear from some parents who have no one in their family with allergies, and can’t understand where their child’s food allergies come from. There are many more possible causes than just genetics for food allergies, which you can find on our website here.

The Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) states that asthma and allergies affect 1 out of 4 Americans, or 60 million people. Further, they report that allergies have a genetic component. If only one parent has allergies of any type, chances are 1 in 3 that each child will have an allergy. If both parents have allergies, the chances increase to 7 in 10 that their children will have allergies. Dr. Scott Sicherer, in his book, “The Complete Peanut Allergy Handbook” also states that “there is a 7 percent risk, or about ten times higher risk than normal, for developing a peanut allergy if one sibling has a peanut allergy.”

Allergies can be passed from parent to child. Children may inherit the tendency to develop allergies if either parent or any family member suffers from eczema, asthma, or food allergies. The specific allergy is not inherited from the parents, merely the tendency to be allergic. If neither parent is allergic research suggests that there is still a 5-15% chance that the child will develop allergies.

Research has also shown the children who have a genetic predisposition to produce excess IgE are at least 8 times as likely to develop food allergy when delivered by cesarean section. My son wasn’t delivered by C section, but out of four grandparents, one had severe asthma and hayfever, one has cold urticaria and hayfever, one had shellfish allergy as a child and one had no allergies. That’s a lot of genetics to overcome!

Between my husband and I, my husband really doesn’t have any allergies to speak of other than an allergy to cats. Me however, that’s a different story! I’ve been recently diagnosed with a mast cell mediated disorder. In other words, I have an abundance of mast cells in my body, especially in my stomach. I also have multiple IgE food allergies, environmental allergies and cold urticaria. Our college age daughter also has these same issues, so sadly I’ve passed my genetics on to her.

There’s so much more that our family understands now about allergies in the environment, food allergies and cold hives – so I don’t blame myself for my kids getting all these allergic issues. I do hope that someday we’ll find a cure, or at least be able to mitigate the most serious of allergic reactions, anaphylaxis.

In the meantime, at least I know what it’s like to have allergies and I can help my kids to stay safe!