Information Source for Allergy Sufferers
Allergy - Also called - Hypersensitivity
An allergy is a reaction of your immune system to something that does not bother most other people. People who have allergies often are sensitive to more than one thing. Substances that often cause reactions are:
- Dust mites
- Mold spores
- Pet dander
- Insect stings
How do you get allergies? Scientists think both genes and the environment have something to do with it. Normally, your immune system fights germs. It is your body's defense system. In most allergic reactions, however, it is responding to a false alarm.
Allergies can cause a runny nose, sneezing, itching, rashes, swelling or asthma. Symptoms vary. Although allergies can make you feel bad, they usually won't kill you. However, a severe reaction called anaphylaxis is life-threatening.
Allergic disorders, such as anaphylaxis, hay fever, eczema and asthma, now afflict roughly 25% of people in the developed world. In allergic subjects, persistent or repetitive exposure to allergens, which typically are intrinsically innocuous substances common in the environment, results in chronic allergic inflammation.
This in turn produces long-term changes in the structure of the affected organs and substantial abnormalities in their function. It is therefore important to understand the characteristics and consequences of acute and chronic allergic inflammation, and in particular to explore how mast cells can contribute to several features of this maladaptive pattern of immunological reactivity.
Chitin Compound Causes Allergic Inflammation
The shells of crabs and beetles owe their toughness to a common compound called chitin that now appears to trigger airway inflammation and asthma, scientists have found.
Insects, molds and parasitic worms . . . all common sources of allergies or inflammation - produce billions of tons of chitin a year. Humans and other mammals lack chitin, but have specialized enzymes to break it down.
Chitin triggers an allergic inflammatory response in the lungs of mice, as well as increased production of an enzyme made by lung cells that destroys chitin. This and other results support the possibility, still under study, that chitin causes inflammation and allergy, and that the chitin-destroying enzyme in the lung could play an important role in regulating the body’s response.
Now that we’ve demonstrated that chitin can trigger this kind of allergic inflammation in mice, we want to determine whether chitin naturally present in the environment can contribute to allergic or inflammatory responses.
Asthma is increasing in all industrialized societies, not only in some of the less-served areas of large cities, but even in the suburbs. This is a huge health problem that impacts enormous numbers of children everywhere.
The presence of chitin in molds, worms and insects, which can all invade humans by penetrating skin or mucus membranes, may have pressured vertebrates to maintain "chitin-recognition molecules."
People normally mount an immune attack against an allergen or parasite in response to chitin, among other signals.
This kind of inflammation is important in repelling the foreign allergen or parasite. In turn, the inflammatory cells themselves trigger cells in the invaded tissue to ramp up production of the chitin-disabling enzyme.
Shellfish processing workers often have "crab asthma," an industrial hazard that has attracted the attention of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Chitin exposure may be particularly high among industry workers, who need to remove and destroy the hard chitin shells of crabs and other crustaceans. The chitin levels in shellfish processing plants, and, if they are high, considering ways to reduce exposure to chitin among workers.
The cleanliness and lack of bacteria in many industrial nations may explain the sharp increase in the rate of asthma and other allergies, Locksley explains. Modern societies have cleaned up living conditions so that people are exposed to far less dirt, and antibiotics and microbicides have reduced the numbers of bacteria in the environment.
Bacteria are known to degrade chitin, and Locksley suggests that the reduction in bacteria may lead to an increase of chitin in the environment largely from molds and insects. He says this may explain the findings of several studies that the highest childhood asthma risk tends to be associated with the lowest exposure to bacteria.
Allergy Prevention Tips
There are some simple things you can do to prevent allergies at home, work school, outside and when you travel.
- Dust to control mites. By dusting surfaces and washing bedding often, you can control the amount of dust mites in your home.
- Vacuum often. Although cleaning can sometimes trigger allergic reactions, with dust in the air, vacuuming once or twice a week will reduce the surface dust mites. Wear a mask when doing housework and consider leaving for a few hours after you clean to avoid allergens in the air. You can also make sure your vacuum has an air filter to capture dust.
- Reduce pet dander. If you have allergies, you should avoid pets with feathers or fur like birds, dogs and cats. Animal saliva and dead skin, or pet dander, can cause allergic reactions. If you can’t bear to part with your pet, you should at least keep it out of the bedroom.
- Shut out pollen. When you clean your windows, do you see a film of pollen on the frame or sill? One easy way to prevent pollen from entering your home is to keep windows and doors closed. Use an air filter and clean it regularly or run the air conditioner and change the filter often.
- Avoid mold spores. Mold spores grow in moist areas. If you reduce the moisture in the bathroom and kitchen, you will reduce the mold. Fix any leaks inside and outside of your home and clean moldy surfaces. Plants can carry pollen and mold too, so limit the number of houseplants. Dehumidifiers will also help reduce mold.
Prevent Allergies At Work
Allergies at home and work are similar and affect millions of people each year. Allergy symptoms, like sneezing, nasal congestion and headache, may make it difficult to concentrate. Every work environment will have specific allergy problems so talk to your health care provider or pharmacist about how you can prevent allergies at your specific workplace.
Prevent Allergies At School
Children may face allergens in the classroom and playground. In fact, children in the United States miss about two million school days each year because of allergy symptoms. Parents, teachers and health care providers can work together to help prevent and treat childhood allergies. Monitor the classroom for plants, pets or other items that may carry allergens. Encourage your child to wash his/her hands after playing outside. Many of the allergens in the home will also be found at school. Although it may not be an option to vacuum or dust the classroom, there may be treatment options to help a child manage his/her symptoms during the school day.
Prevent Allergies Outside
There are certain times during the year when plants and trees release pollen into the air. The timing of these pollen seasons depends on your geographic location. Different regions have different types of plants that pollinate at different times. Depending on where you live, allergy seasons may be mild or severe. Experts estimate that 35 million Americans suffer from allergies because of airborne pollen!
Tiny particles that are released from trees, weeds and grasses are known as pollen. These particles are carried by the wind from tall treetops all the way to your nose. But before you shrug off fancy flowers in fear of sniffles, remember that the types of pollen that most commonly cause your allergies are from plain-looking plants, such as trees, grasses and weeds. These plants produce small and light pollen, perfect for catching a ride on a gentle breeze.
Similar to pollen, mold spores are a seasonal pest. If you are sensitive to mold spores, you may have symptoms from spring to late fall. Yet, even after the first frost of winter, some mold spores can continue to grow in freezing temperatures. The severity of your mold spore allergies can depend on the climate that you live in. In the warmest areas of the United States, mold spores grow all year! But before you move to Antarctica, remember that mold spores also grow indoors, making it a year-round problem.
Prevent Allergies when Traveling
We are all on the go and there are a few things to keep in mind to prevent outdoor allergies during peak season, when the pollen count is high.
Stay inside during peak pollen times, usually between 10:00 a.m. and
Keep your car windows closed when traveling
Stay indoors when humidity is high and on days with high wind, when dust and pollen are more likely to be in the air
Wear a face mask if you are outside to limit the amount of pollen you inhale
Shower after spending time outside to wash away pollen that collects on your skin and hair
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
If you suffer from allergies, there may be other concerns when you travel. The allergy climate may be different than the one where you live. When you travel by car, bus or train, you may find dust mites, mold spores and pollen bothersome. Turn on the air conditioner or heater before getting in your car and travel with the windows closed to avoid allergens from outside. Travel early in the morning or late in the evening when the air quality is better.
When flying to your favorite vacation spot, remember that air quality and dryness on planes can affect you if you have allergies. If a cruise is your next vacation, be aware of the season and temperature at your destination(s). In tropical, damp climates there are allergens like dust mites, mold spores and pollen. In cold, damp climates, you may be exposed to dust mites and mold spores. Once you arrive at your hotel, there may be dust mites and mold spores lurking. If you are staying with family or friends, the same types of allergens that you find at home may be present.
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