BOSTON (CBS) — The number of children who go to the emergency room with life-threatening allergic reactions continues to rise.

According to a new report from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, which looked at almost 10 million children in the U.S., the rate of emergency room visits due to anaphylaxis increased by 150% from 2010 to 2016.

It’s not clear why we’re seeing an increase in ER visits for severe allergies. Parents may be more aware of the warning signs and may be seeking care more often than before, but many experts subscribe to the “hygiene hypothesis” which suggests that because we live in an increasingly clean environment our immune system overreacts when faced with allergens it has never seen before.

Kids don’t play in the dirt like they did in years past, where all kinds of microorganisms live. Many families keep their homes squeaky clean with cleaning products and antibacterial soaps. We take antibiotics, often unnecessarily, which get rid of good bacteria on our skin and in our guts. And diet might also play a role.

Until we can figure the causes, parents should know the warning signs and talk to their pediatricians about what to do if an allergic reaction occurs.

 

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