Allergies are on the rise. Health professionals and government authorities have reported an increasing trend of food and skin allergies in the population under age 18. It doesn’t stop there. The general population also complained of more allergies caused by inhalant or environmental allergens.
This increasing trend may be explained by the following factors:
- Hygiene – Allergy experts believe that living conditions in many first-world countries have simply become too clean. As a result, children are no longer exposed to as many germs. Sound like a good thing? Not necessarily. Ongoing experience with germs helps teach young immune systems to know the difference between harmful and harmless irritants. Studies have shown that children in developed countries with better sanitation have lower incidents of infections but higher incidents of allergy, as compared to the population in less-developed countries (where there are more cases of infections but lower incidents of allergy). It is believed that more exposure to bacteria and endotoxins educates the immune system to properly function rather than overreacting to harmless allergens in the environment.
- Climate change – Some experts believe that global warming is partly responsible for the increase in cases of allergies, signaling that climate change has become a health issue, in addition to an environmental one. The National Wildlife Federation estimates that climate change will account for increased allergies for approximately 25 million Americans. This is due to the faster production of pollens spurred on by increased carbon dioxide levels in the environment. Climate change can lengthen the term of the standard allergy season, causing people to experience symptoms for longer than they typically do. The warmer weather also accounts for the spread and growth of trees that produce allergens and the increased presence of fungal antigens in the air. Climate change may also be responsible for more frequent asthma attacks due to the worsening of air pollution.
As more and more people suffer from allergies, the greatest impact is on the cost of healthcare. Completely avoiding allergy triggers in this allergen-filled world is nearly impossible. Instead, patients can seek immunotherapy treatment to retrain their body to stop overreacting to allergens in the environment. Immunotherapy is available through shots or through oral allergy drops that can be taken at home.