In the United States, 1 in every 12 people has asthma, but that isn’t how it used to be. Based on a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), asthma in America increased by 28 percent from 2001 to 2011.
Asthma usually develops during childhood, although people of all ages can experience it. Between 2001 and 2009, the rate of increase of asthma occurrence among African American children was 50 percent, the highest upsurge in any group.
It would seem that it isn’t just the incidence of asthma that’s on the rise. A recent report by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) cited a dramatic increase in allergies in the last four decades in America.
What Causes the Increase?
According to ACAAI member Clifford W. Bassett, M.D., causes for the increase of asthma and allergy cases are not conclusive but one likely reason is the ‘hygiene hypothesis.’ This refers to excessive disinfecting of a baby or a toddler’s environment. There is nothing wrong with being conscious about cleanliness, especially when it comes to kids. However, an environment that is too sanitized could result in an immune system that is not adept at identifying germs in the environment. Thus, it may mistake allergens for germs and lead to an increased likelihood of allergies or asthma.
How Can the Occurrence of Asthma and Allergy be Decreased?
Here are a few ways to minimize allergy and asthma development in your home environment:
- Don’t smoke. If you can’t break the habit, at least don’t smoke indoors or in vehicles. Smokers and children exposed to second hand smoke are much more likely to develop asthma.
- If there are furry pets at home, give them a bath weekly or as much as possible. Do not let them stay on beds and furniture. Minimizing dander will help keep allergies at bay.
- Bed sheets, blankets and pillow cases should be washed weekly to minimize dust—another major allergen.
- If modifications around the home aren’t alleviating your allergy symptoms, talk to a physician about immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is available through shots or under-the-tongue drops (such as those offered at the Family Allergy Clinic) and can redirect the immune system to tolerate more allergens.