Doctor says 'too clean' kids could develop more allergies

ATLANTA — More metro Atlanta families are learning that their child could be at risk for developing a life-threatening allergic reaction to food.

Channel 2's Linda Stouffer spoke with a local doctor who told her that emergency room visits at local hospitals are skyrocketing with cases of allergic reactions to food.

Mother Thonja Smith said she knows the danger all too well. Her daughter, Kennedy Smith Rauckman, had a bad reaction to nuts that she came in contact with in a fellow student’s lunch.

“She turned around and her eyes were completely swollen,” Smith said.

She said Kennedy didn’t even touch the nuts, but still had the reaction.

Allergies to nut, milk and eggs products are some of the most common in young children. Channel 2 Action News talked to a local expert about why ER visits are skyrocketing

“We’ve seen a definite increase in food allergy doubling and tripling, at least in the peanut category,” said Dr. Kathleen Sheerin, with Atlanta Allergy and Asthma.

Sheerin said more children are developing allergies because they're too clean.

“The good old days when you went out and played in the dirt or the cow barn, those kids weren’t as allergic,” Sheerin said. “Dirt is your friend. If you get exposed, it helps you.”


Sheerin thinks tightly controlling early exposure to things like nuts and dairy has actually backfired.

She suggests getting children tested if they show signs of an allergy, but wants families to know most emergency injectors are now covered by insurance.

“Don’t be afraid to use it, and use it quickly,” Sheerin said.

That's what the Smith family will do after Kennedy's close call.

“We use Zyrtec and if there is an emergency, we have to do an EpiPen,” Smith said.

“The EpiPen makes me feel good,” Kennedy said.