Children with allergies: "Too much care makes you sick"

In your clinic, you treat children with so-called atopic diseases, such as atopic dermatitis, asthma or allergies such as hay fever. And you look at their parents too. Why?

DR PETER LIFFLER: Many children, often infants, are seriously ill. They have severe rashes and are constantly scratching. Of course, parents worry about it. However, I have found that mothers and fathers tend to hang on and take care of their children, which does not do them any good.

How are you doing this?

The children are with us for several weeks. At first, parents always struggle to let go: they wear it constantly, let it sleep in their bed, mothers breastfeed longer than is appropriate for the age of the children. We show parents why it is better to give their children more freedom. At the end of the stay, many girls and boys seem much more open and happy and the symptoms have diminished. At the same time, we are also working with conventional therapeutic methods such as the hyposensitization of allergies or special creams for atopic dermatitis.

Is there not a danger of over-frequenting families?

Most parents who come to our home are very happy because they see how much their child is changing, not just in terms of illness. They have the opportunity to change their behavior, to break their routines.

See that too much love is not good for their children: how difficult is it for parents?

The first week families are with us at the clinic is always the most difficult. You must convince the parents in peace. And in 95% of cases, we succeed too.

You think that exaggerated care on the part of the father and the mother has an influence on the disease …

I even suppose that this behavior favors the appearance of an illness. Of course, genetic factors also play a role, many parents even having atopic symptoms. The child's illness is often a stress response: he wants to grow, break away but not do it because the parents slow him down. This conflict puts a lot of pressure on the child.

In a pilot study, you reach the conclusion that parents with atopic dermatitis, asthma or allergies are more sensitive than other mothers and fathers. They are often less resistant to stress, more excitable, mentally unstable. What does it mean for children?

If parents are very sensitive, they tend to be constantly worried about their children and often have a symbiotic relationship with them. Sometimes even a psychotherapeutic measure can make sense, in which mothers and fathers learn in a sustainable way to better manage their sensitivity.

Do not stigmatize parents here?

Nobody should feel denigrated by our studies. The fact that today more people suffer from allergies, neurodermatitis and increased sensitivity is also linked to greater social insecurity. The breakup of many partnerships, belonging to the middle class, can slip more easily into need than before. The climate has become tougher overall.

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