The definition provided by the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) is “An allergy is an abnormal reaction to an ordinarily harmless substance called an allergen. When an allergen, such as pollen, is absorbed into the body of an allergic person, that person’s immune system views the allergen as an invader and a chain reaction is initiated.” Put simply, allergies are a physiological error. The body is reacting negatively to harmless substances, foods or stimuli. The word “allergy” comes from the Greek allos, meaning “other”. It was first used in 1906 to refer to an “altered reaction” in the body’s immune system.
An allergic reaction occurs when the body comes in contact with the allergen. This can occur through contact with the skin, inhalation, injection or ingestion of the substance. Medical treatment includes: avoidance of the allergen, medications to reduce the symptoms of the allergic reaction or injections to desensitize the patient to the allergen. The medical classification of a “true allergy” requires an IgE-mediated response.
The use of the word “allergy” has become a generic term used by the public to describe allergies, sensitivities and intolerances. Therefore, the term “allergy” is now understood as a term for any negative reaction from exposure to a benign substance.
A “true allergy” is a reaction triggered by the immune system, however there are a vast number of symptoms or conditions caused by sensitivities that may or may not involve the immune system. With reactions involving food, a large percentage of the population believe they have allergies, yet fewer than 2% actually have true allergies. In fact, many suffer from undiagnosed food sensitivities or intolerances. The majority of patients who seek the AAT treatment do not have true allergies; their symptoms are likely to be caused by sensitivities with no immune involvement. Since there are few options for the treatment of sensitivities, other than avoidance, AAT provides a highly effective alternative. Symptoms caused by true allergies, however, also respond well to the treatment as the organs systems involved in the reaction are also addressed.
The use of the word “allergy” has become a generic term used by the public to describe allergies, sensitivities and intolerances.
“Allergy” is commonly used interchangeably with “Sensitivity”.
“Where allergens lurk”
Rosa Salter Rodriguez | The Journal Gazette
For allergy sufferers, there’s no place like home.
And we mean that literally.
Residences can harbor scores of triggers waiting to bedevil up to 50 million sensitive Americans who sneeze and sniffle and wheeze their way through life because of allergies, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
Homes foster indoor allergens such as dust; microscopic critters that live in dust called dust mites; pet hair and dander; insect or rodent droppings; and mold. And, at this time of year, homes also can harbor pollen and spores that get blown or tracked in from outside.
Yet the home is often overlooked by sufferers who, instead of working to minimize triggers, focus only on alleviating their symptoms with over-the-counter or prescription drugs or shots, says Dr. Michael Smits, partner in Fort Wayne’s Allergy and Asthma Center.
“Allergies to something in the house are very common,” Smits says. “The main thing is dust and dust mites. It’s unusual that people are only allergic to dust, but of those who are allergic, it’s the most common allergy. Mold is probably the second most common thing.”
Some clues that the home might be involved in causing symptoms, according to the immunology college: If symptoms show up more while you are at home than while you are in other places, or upon going to bed; if symptoms aren’t confined to a single time of year; if symptoms flare when you are cleaning the house; or if there’s been water damage or visible mold within the last three months.
Smits says if you suspect you have an allergy, the first thing to do is get an allergy test. Then, if household allergies are revealed, you can go about remediating the home sensibly – instead of trying to eliminate every trigger, you can target the things causing the most problems.
No one can remove all of a home’s triggers, but experts say a diligent effort could lessen the allergen load, and that may lead to fewer symptoms, less medicine or eliminate the need for shots, says Gary McEldowney, marketing manager for AllergyBuyersClub.com, an online seller of allergen management products.
Living room: Carpets, heavy drapes or curtains or Venetian blinds, upholstery and pillows. All can harbor dust, dust mites and pet dander. Dust and vacuum regularly. Use of a vacuum with a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter is recommended. Wash fabrics in hot (130 degrees F) water, and if you are very sensitive and can handle the expense, replace carpet with bare floors, upholstery with non-permeable covers such as leather, and curtains and drapes with washable fabrics or easy-to-clean blinds. Note: New carpets can temporarily raise the level of chemicals called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which might be respiratory irritants.
High humidity: Dust mites love it and mold grows well in it. Use air conditioning in hot weather to keep humidity at 40 percent or lower. Avoid vaporizers or humidifiers, which raise humidity, but consider a dehumidifier if you live in a humid climate.
Books, magazines: Store them in boxes instead of letting them sit in stacks or on shelves where they catch dust.
Houseplants: They help clean the air of carbon dioxide, which gives indoor air that “stale” quality, but soil can harbor mold, and pollen can be an irritant. Dried and artificial flowers and straw baskets as containers also hold dust and are best avoided by those who are very sensitive.
Bedroom: Bedding. Dust mites can be limited by washing bedding every 10 days in hot water and vacuuming mattresses and box springs (a HEPA filter is preferred). Dust mite-proof covers for mattresses, pillows and box springs can be bought.
Pillows: Look for alternatives to down, feathers, foam rubber or Kapok, if any of these are problematic.
Pets: It may be hard to banish a pet from the bedroom but, because of pet dander and urine traces. “The most important room of the house to keep your pet out of is the bedroom,” according to the ACAAI. Bathing pets frequently and washing hands after contact can reduce allergen contact.
Kitchen: Dirty dishes, food left unrefrigerated or in unsealed containers. These can harbor mold and attract cockroaches, whose feces can cause allergic reactions. Also, empty and disinfect wastebaskets and recycling bins frequently to prevent mold. Don’t neglect disinfecting the inside of the refrigerator with a 5 percent bleach solution or other allergy-effective cleaner and getting rid of dust hidden underneath, or behind or on coils.
Unseen spaces: Set traps along walls for cockroaches or rodents.
Leaks and/or damp spots around the sink or refrigerator. Wipe up wet spots as soon as possible and fix leaky plumbing. Clean visible mold with a 5 percent bleach solution.
Bathroom: Shower walls and bathroom fixtures. Mold and mildew grow in moist and/or dark places. Disinfect frequently.
Fan. Blades can harbor dust and mold and should be cleaned often or disinfected if mold appears. Run the fan or open a window after showering to lessen high humidity that fosters mold growth.
Playroom: Toys and stuffed animals. Store them in sealed containers to keep them from catching dust. Wash stuffed animals frequently in hot water. Keep them off affected children’s beds.
Chalk: Dust can cause respiratory irritation.
Garage: Car exhaust. If a car runs in an attached garage, its pollutants can permeate the house, even with the garage door open.
Lawn, garden, automotive and other chemicals. Store them away from the garage or basement if chemical sensitivities are present.
Firewood: It can harbor mold or insects. Store it away from the garage or house.
Smoke: Smokers need to go away from an attached garage to prevent irritants from entering the house.
Basement: Dampness or wet spots. Mold can grow. Run a dehumidifier. Check for visible mold, and clean and disinfect affected areas.
Furnace, air conditioning. Consider investing in a HEPA or allergy-trapping filter with a minimum efficiency rating value of 8 or higher. Replace or clean any filter as directed.
Air ducts: They trap dust and can harbor mold. Consider professional cleaning. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association does not recommend a specific frequency of cleanings but says pets, smoking, water damage, environmental dust, a large number of residents, or the presence of someone with allergy, asthma, lung disease or a low immune system are factors that warrant more frequent cleaning. “I would say most normal housing would benefit every three years,” says Buck Shepard, NADCA president. Ducts should be inspected annually, he says.
“How changing children’s diets can prevent them developing asthma”
By Jenny Hope | www.dailymail.co.uk
Changing the lifestyle of babies at high risk of asthma can stop them getting it in later life, claim British researchers.
Cutting out nuts, dairy foods and soya, as well as reducing the level of dust mites in bedding and the nursery, lowers asthma rates among teenagers, according to a new study.
It shows for the first time that intensive manipulation of the diet of youngsters – and their breastfeeding mothers – and the environment in which they grow up can affect their chances of developing asthma and allergies.
Breathe easy: Manipulation of the diet of youngsters – and their breastfeeding mothers – can prevent asthma in later life
The study is unique because it has followed children since birth for more than 18 years.
Researchers hope the findings could stem the epidemic of asthma and allergy in the UK.
Over 1.4 million British children have asthma, rates have shot up four-fold since the 1970s, while an estimated six per cent of children have food allergies.
Professor Syed Hasan Arshad and his team from the David Hide Asthma and Allergy Centre in the Isle of Wight have been monitoring 120 children since 1990 in the Isle of Wight Primary Prevention Study.
The children were considered to be at high risk of developing allergic disease on the basis that two or more family members had an allergic disorder.
Half the children and their mothers had intensive changes made to their lifestyle.
Prof Arshad said ‘The 58 infants up to one year old and their mothers in the prevention group followed a diet that avoided dairy products, soya and nuts.
‘We checked their compliance by randomly testing breast milk.’
The infants were also given vinyl mattresses and covers, and acracide was used to reduce the level of house dust mite.
The mothers of the 62 infants in the control group did not make these changes to their diet and bedding.
The findings show at one, two, four and eight years old, there was a consistent reduction in atopy – an immediate allergic reaction – in those children in the prevention group.
When they reached 18, there was significantly less asthma in the prevention group compared to those who had no changes made to their lifestyle.
Just 10 per cent of the prevention group had developed asthma compared with one in four of the group which had no lifestyle intervention. A further analysis of allergic and non-allergic asthma found lower rates of allergic asthma in the prevention group, with 43 per cent being atopic at 17 compared with half of the other group.
Avoiding certain foods such as nuts and dairy products made a group of children significantly less likely to suffer asthma attacks.
Co-researcher Dr Martha Scott presented the results at the congress of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology meeting in London. She said ‘Whilst this study is small it does suggest that it is possible to prevent the onset of asthma in high-risk individuals by instituting a strict regime that avoids some of the common triggers for asthma in the first year of life.
‘We have shown that the beneficial effect lasts for many years.’
She said early intervention was important to prevent changes in the child’s airways that predispose them to asthma.
‘This study is important as a proof of the concept that environmental manipulation in early life reduces the prevalence of asthma in high risk individuals.
‘This small study needs to be repeated on a larger scale to identify who is most likely to benefit from this type of prevention strategy’ she added.
Leanne Metcalf, Director of Research at Asthma UK, said ‘The results of this long-term study are exciting and suggest that, in principle, it is possible to protect high risk children from developing asthma by minimising their exposure to allergens.
‘It is one of the most rigorous and comprehensive asthma research studies ever undertaken, which included altering the child’s home environment, their mother’s diet during pregnancy and the child’s diet until the age of one.
‘However, although this news is very encouraging, it’s important to point out that the methods used were very intensive and the families needed substantial guidance and support in order to significantly reduce their child’s allergen exposure.
‘As this approach is only likely to be worthwhile in families with a strong history of severe asthma and other allergic conditions, there remains a need for improved allergy services across the UK.’
Babies whose birth weight is low are more prone to asthma whereas heavier babies are at greater risk of eczema in childhood, according to two Swedish studies of more than 10,000 twins. Researchers presenting the results at the London allergy conference suggest this is due to the development of the lungs and the immune system being impaired by poor nutrition in the womb.