Allergy Causes: Host and Environmental

by Ellen Preston

Every day, it seems like there are more people claiming to have allergies. Where are the allergies coming from and what can we do to prevent and/or control them?

When we look at a group of allergic patients, their risk of allergic stimulation can be placed in two general categories - host or environmental. Host factors include heredity, sex, race and age. The other large area of offenders is environmental, which is made up of things around you, such as air quality, bedding, furniture, flooring, etc.

For all of us, the risk of allergic sensitization and the development of allergies varies with our age; we are most at risk as young children. The peak prevalence of hay fever is highest in children and young adults, and the incidence of asthma is highest in children under 10. If you look at allergy by sex, boys have a higher risk of developing allergies than girls, although for some diseases, namely asthma in young adults, females are more likely to be affected. Sex differences tend to decrease in adulthood. Ethnicity may also play a role in some allergies; however, racial factors have been difficult to separate from environmental influences and changes due to migration.

When looking at any group of allergic patients, heredity is by far the most significant influence. Heredity issues in allergy patients occur because of certain genes and their interactions with other genes. We have learned that some genes lend protection, while others contribute to the development of allergies. As a result, many children will not have the same allergies to specific stimulus as their parents. They will have an increased likelihood to develop an allergy in general, but children often won’t be allergic to the same things as their parents. Additionally, the likelihood of children having allergies will be even greater if both parents have allergic conditions. Medical literature often cites studies proving that allergic parents are more likely to have allergic children, and also reports that children with parents who have allergies are likely to have more severe allergies than those from non-allergic parents.

Some of the most compelling information on the hereditary evidence of allergies comes from studies of twins. As you might guess, identical twins are likely to have the same allergic diseases about 70% of the time. The same allergy occurs about 40% of the time in non-identical twins. In another study of more than 300 families, researchers found that when neither parent had a history of asthma, only 6 percent of their children went on to develop it. But, in families where one parent had the condition, 20 percent of children had the diagnosis. In families where both parents had asthma, 60 percent of children had it too.

Bottom line, if you or your spouse suffers from allergies, and have or plan to have children, you should keep a keen eye out for symptoms of allergic reaction in your children.

The second category of allergic stimulus is environmental. We have seen recent increases in the incidence of allergic disorders that cannot be explained by genetic factors alone. Major environmental candidates are environmental pollution, allergen levels and dietary changes, all three of which are large contributors to the significant increase in the reported number of allergy sufferers in the recent past.

There are many steps a patient and their family can take to reduce the total amount of allergic stimulation in their household by controlling the various individual contributors. This is a lot easier than it sounds. We tell patients to think of their allergies as though they are filling a cup. Their bodies can manage for awhile. Then the cup overflows when it is just too full of allergens and the individual suffers an allergic reaction. Proactively reduce or remove the allergic stimulants found indoors, and the allergy sufferer could well avoid a reaction altogether and/or find significant relief from symptoms.

At Allergy Control Products our goal is to reduce the amount of individual offenders (allergens) to keep the total effect on the allergic individual as minimal as possible. The best place to start looking for those offenders is in the bedroom. We find a large number of our customers are allergic to dust mites. Not surprising. In fact, many medical studies cite that nearly 90% of general allergy sufferers are indeed allergic to dust mites. As a result, the first and most effective step that can be taken to prevent this environmental offender is by covering bedding in allergy encasings to control the dust mite problem. The next step is always to consider air filters and/or air purifiers to reduce the amount of airborne environmental pollution in your home. Implementing these two straightforward steps will greatly reduce the level of allergic stimulants in your home and should help provide some immediate relief of allergy symptoms. Other helpful ways to control environmental offenders are to consider cleaning house with special cleaners and doing laundry with special laundry products designed to be effective for allergens.

So, while we can’t change our genes for allergies, we can certainly learn to live happier and healthier lives by taking control of our environment.