Sneezy Season is Upon Us
Tis the season for watery eyes and sneezing – at least in our household. Both Spouse and Number 1 suffer from seasonal allergies in the spring. I can always tell when the pollen count is high just by looking at them.
I come from a family with relatively few, if any, allergies and married into a family that deals with a variety of allergies. Even before I became a card-carrying scientist I was interested in how allergies occur, and why I grew up never knowing about them, but other people were plagued by them. As a mom, I was/am very concerned about my children developing allergies, particularly those that lead to anaphylactic reactions.
Over the next few months I am going to have a handful of posts about allergies and the current research into allergy treatment and causes. I thought I would start out this series with some allergy fun facts:
Allergies are very common. Approximately 1 in 5 adults suffer from some kind of allergy.
Allergies and sensitivities are different. An allergy is due to the overreaction of the immune system to a foreign protein. Your body thinks the protein is an “invader” and develops specific antibodies to the protein. A sensitivity is a reaction to something that does not involve the bodies immune system. Similar to allergies, sensitivities can make you feel pretty crummy. Interestingly, of the 15% of Americans that say they have a food allergy, only 3-4% actually do.
Allergies are inherited, sort of. Allergies do run in families. However, it is the tendency to become allergic that is inherited, not the particular allergy. A child born to someone with allergies will have a higher likelihood of developing allergies (33% if one parent is allergic, 70% if both parents are allergic), but will not necessarily become allergic to the same thing that their parent is allergic to. Although Spouse is highly allergic to potatoes (tough for this Irish gal) and mildly allergic to shellfish, Number 4 is severely allergic to all fish and shellfish (except tuna and salmon).
Withhold/don’t withhold. During the time that Numbers 1-3 were born, it was hypothesized that withholding foods known to induce strong allergic responses might prevent allergies. Because of Spouse’s family history, we withheld strawberries and tree nuts (the peanut butter paucity was painful) until they were 2 years old. The most recent research suggests however, that withholding these foods does not prevent allergies and may actually increase the rate of allergies to these foods.
Seasonal allergies are lasting longer. It seems almost every year I hear people say that the allergy season is worse than the year before. This may actually be true. Due to global warming, the current ragweed pollen season lasts 4 weeks longer than it did 10-15 years ago.
If you would like to learn more about allergies, be sure to look for future posts on this topic. Although I can’t promise you allergy relief, I hope the reading will be interesting enough to take your mind off of it for a while!