NEW YORK - Experts say they're not sure why parents are reporting more skin and food allergies in their children.
A big government study says 1 in 20 children in the U.S. have food allergies That's a 50 percent increase from the late 1990s.
For eczema and other skin allergies, it's 1 in 8 children. That's an increase of 69 percent. The study found no increase in hay fever or other respiratory allergies.
The new report isn't precise. It uses annual surveys of thousands of adults interviewed in person and researchers didn't ask the parents if a doctor had made the diagnosis.
Dr. Morton Galina, a pediatric allergist at Atlanta's Emory School of Medicine, says, "We see a lot of kids in clinic that really aren't" allergic to the foods their parents worry about." He says hives are sometimes blamed on a certain food when a virus was the actual cause.
But experts also believe there's a real -- and unexplained -- increase going on, too.
Dr. Peter Lio, a Northwestern University pediatric dermatologist who specializes in eczema, says big cities have higher childhood allergy rates. He says maybe some air pollutant is the unrecognized trigger.
Another theory is that America's culture of disinfection and overuse of antibiotics doesn't give children the opportunity to be exposed to the germs and parasites in early childhood that could prevent the body from developing certain allergies.