If allergies are making your life miserable, you’re in good company. Allergies and asthma are on the rise, affecting more and more people each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collected data for a 14-year period preceding 2011. The data showed that food allergies rose by 50 percent. (It’s now estimated that two kids in each public school classroom suffer from food allergies.) Furthermore, for a 10-year period preceding 2011, asthma in children and adults jumped up by 28 percent.
The Reason Behind the Rise
No one knows exactly why allergies and asthma are on the rise, but there are a number of commonly-held theories. One suggests that air pollution and global warming are causing higher pollen levels that exacerbate allergy symptoms. This is evident in the pollination season of ragweed, one of the most common allergens, which has started earlier and lasted longer in recent years.Another theory is that the antibiotics that we take and also give to farm animals could be driving up allergies.
Others point to the “hygiene hypothesis” which suggests that we have become so clean that kids have underdeveloped immune systems. Back when kids played on the floor and in the dirt, immune systems seemed to have been stronger. Now, our immune systems don’t get as much exposure to dirt and bacteria and may have trouble discerning between bad entities (like germs) and good entities (like harmless pollens). When the immune system overreacts to harmless elements like pollen and dust, it triggers a release of chemicals that lead to hay fever, asthma, eczema, headaches, and other common allergy symptoms.
Allergy-Proofing your Home
There’s no way to totally allergy-proof your home, but you can take some measures to minimize the influence of allergens.
- Don’t smoke
- If you have pets, bathe them regularly
- Launder bed linens at least weekly (to get rid of allergy-causing dust mites)
- Stay away from allergenic foods
- Shut your windows when you sleep
- Stay indoors when pollen counts are high
If you’re still feeling miserable in spite of your best efforts to keep your home allergy free, don’t lose hope. Allergy immunotherapy can help rewire your immune system so it stops launching allergy attacks in response to harmless dusts, molds, pollens, and food items.
There are two popular forms of immunotherapy: allergy shots and sublingual allergy drops, which are taken under the tongue. Both have been shown to work effectively, but allergy drops for kids are often a safer bet because they have a lower incidence of anaphylactic reaction. Allergy shots must be taken at the doctor’s office. Because allergy drops are safer, they can be taken at home.
Talk to your doctor about prescribing sublingual immunotherapy (allergy drops) or subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots). The drops are also helpful for food allergy treatment including milk, egg, wheat, and nut allergy treatment. Ask your doctor if you want to learn more about the research behind sublingual immunotherapy and about the cost of allergy drops as compared to shots.