Allergies – The Modern Epidemic
The numbers are staggering.
One in five – 20 percent of the population of the United States have symptoms of either an allergy or asthma. Over half of the population (55-percent) will have a positive reaction to one or more allergen.
In fact, in the United States, allergies are considered the fifth highest chronic disease in the country.
It doesn’t get any better either.
If both of your parents suffer from allergies you are 70-percent more likely to develop them than if your parents did not.
Hay fever has resulted in over 4-million lost work days annually in the United States and if that isn’t enough, allergies cost the health care system nearly $8-billion annually.
Clearly a runny nose and fever can mean a lot more than a cold but what exactly is an allergy?
Essentially an allergy is what is identified as a response to an immune system reaction. That reaction is triggered by a substance in the body that is often not considered a health threat by itself.
What it causes – the allergic reaction – may become harmful as it produces symptoms that cause issues with various bodily functions. They range from upsetting the respiratory or cardiovascular systems, skin or gastrointestinal tract.
When any of these functions are disrupted, the symptoms may be upgraded to life threatening, depending on the severity of the reaction. This why Allergies are often being referred to as the modern epidemic.
So, what then is an Allergen?
There’s an easy answer for that – practically anything and everything. What it depends on is the sensitivity to any of the millions of allergens a person has. Allergens are made up of protein and a mixture of nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen. Allergerns contain the precise components as any and all life forms on the planet.
Because they exist in anything we come in contact with, allergens can enter our bodies in a number of different ways. We can breathe them in, swallow them or have them enter through the skin, eyes or ears.
Allergies fall under eight basic categories.
Of all the allergens in the world, causing countless allergic reactions, they all come down to eight categories of allergies – each with a list of different kinds of individual and specialized allergies. Skin allergies are a number of different conditions affecting skin tissue.
They include eczema, dermatitis, hives and angioedema. Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is identified by red rashes and spotting of skin all over the body. Allergic contact dermatitis has many of the same symptoms but is commonly how the body reacts to contact with poison ivy or other similar allergen.
Hives result from a blood vessel condition where leaks create lumps from swelling. Angioedema, as well as all skin allergies have one thing in common – they are forms of inflammation.
That is the way the body reacts to the bacterial allergens that cause the symptoms.
Food allergies are a different category often triggered by a response to potential harm.
The body senses an issue with digested particles from food entering the bloodstream and sets off an alarm.
The most common food allergies come from peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts, eggs and wheat. These allergens combined are responsible for the majority (90-percent) of all food allergies.
The sensitivity to these allergens you may have will result in strict eating habits or having to skip a public event as the salad bar contains fish or condiments containing peanuts.
Man’s best friend is the cause of one of a number of pet allergies.
Skin flakes, urine, saliva and dander from cats, dogs and even birds have allergens that can result in a whole host of reactions ranging from sneezing, watering of eyes, nasal congestion and itchy skin. In some cases, the animal may not even be directly responsible for the allergic reaction.
However, allergens captured and transported indoors in your pet’s feathers or fur could be the actual cause. Allergens ingested by your pet, and appearing in feces, may be another cause of a reaction.
Medications are responsible for a variety of drug allergies. What happens is that as the body fights off the allergen that has been injected or administered in some other form, it develops antibodies.
Those antibodies start a chain reaction that includes the production of histamines from white blood cells. Those histamines produce the allergic reaction.
There are a number of medications that cause allergic reactions and they include penicillin, tetracycline, codeine, insulin, carbamazepine, phenytoin and anticonvulsant drugs.
Allergy Symptoms to Dust Mites is one of common Allergies
Probably the most common household allergy comes from dust particles. These fine particles are great transmitters of various allergens ranging from pet dander and mold to animal droppings.
Dust mites are microscopic critters that often hitchhike on dust particles and are the cause of many different skin irritations.
Because dust particles are so small, they enter our bodies often through the breathing action which sends them directly into the respiratory system.
This is why the majority of dust allergies are identified from symptoms that resemble breathing conditions such as asthma.
Insect stings – or more accurately the venom released by the stinging action – results in a very different kind of allergy. The allergic reaction to a stinging insect is not to be taken lightly, either. In addition to a high percentage of people being allergic to insect stings, a small percentage dies each year as a result.
Allergen venoms appear in bees, wasps, fire ants, hornets and yellow jackets. Even cockroaches can result in allergic reactions which are typically a localized swelling at the point of contact and increased pulse.
The body apparently views the proteins as harmful and fights off a possible invasion with a reaction that can mimic a number of other allergies but mostly appear as a skin allergy.
Latex particles may also be inhaled and trigger a reaction in those prone to that form of sensitivity.
People allergic to latex have a list of different items to not come in contact with which includes gloves, handgrips on motorcycles, bicycles, ATVs and similar products, toys and clothing that contains latex in their composition and condoms.
The final category of allergies is identified as simply hay fever.
Hay fever – probably named after a misunderstanding that farmers only suffered from it when harvesting hay crops – results from inhaling allergens such as pollen.
Hay fever typically causes irritations in the upper respiratory tract including coughing, sneezing, runny nose and eye conditions from itching to redness and watering.
Virtually any form of airborne allergen that originates from a plant or grass can trigger hay fever.
Are Allergies the Modern Epidemic?
An epidemic is a rapidly spreading disease and there are a few of the allergy categories listed here that would fall under that definition. Chances are extremely good that if you don’t have any known allergies, you will know someone who does.
Considering that allergic reactions can be confused for symptoms of other illnesses, it is easy to see why so much time is spent in emergency rooms and clinics sorting out the difference in order to identify an allergy or something more serious.
Allergies have also become big business in the manufacture of over-the-counter medication. Visit any drugstore or pharmacy and take a close look at the section of medications that are specifically made to treat sinus congestion, hay fever, runny nose and provide “allergy relief.”
The upside here is that there are ways to control, fight and beat the symptoms that result in allergic reactions. Whether your choice is in traditional or herbal medicine, you will be able to find relief from whatever allergy you happen to suffer from.
Allergies are nothing more than a hypersensitivity to some kind of perceived threat to the body’s immune system.
In order to fight off that apparent attack, the body reacts in a defensive manner. There is no way of knowing what causes one person to have an allergic reaction to something that another person does not. There is also no real understanding of why our bodies will sometimes be allergic to things that did not trigger a reaction years before. To say you ‘grow out’ of allergies is not entirely accurate, either.
Our environment provides the allergens and could explain why you may not appear as allergic in one setting compared to another. This happens when moving from one community to another or from one part of the country to somewhere else. The environmental changes may present different allergens that may or may not result in allergic reactions.
All we really know for sure is that allergies are real and are not going to go away anytime soon. Although people have been affected by them over the ages, the identification of an ‘allergy’ only dates back to 1906. It was Viennese pediatrician Clemens von Pirquet who saw patients of his exhibiting an acute sensitivity to certain foods, dust and pollen.
He used the Ancient Greek words for other (allos) and work (ergon) to categorize the reactions his patients were showing. This is why Allergies are being termed as the Modern Epidemic.