Behind the fear of life-threatening peanut allergies stand astounding statistics: between 1997 and 2002, peanut allergies doubled in children under the age of 5. Other childhood food allergies are also skyrocketing, with allergists seeing more children with multiple sensitivities that seem to be lingering longer than they did in the past, Newsweek reports. Intriguing theories abound as scientists scramble to find answers.
Recent research lends credence to the "hygiene hypothesis," which posits that children get food allergies because daily life has become too clean. Without real enemies like viruses to battle, the immune system turns on foodstuffs. Another theory puts children born by Caesarean section, up 40% in the last decade, at higher risk of food allergies.