The Rapid Rise in Allergies and Asthma

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.

Rapid Rise in Allaergies and Asthma

(Pixabay / Maialisa)

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.

About The Author

Stuart H. Agren, M.D.

Stuart H. Agren, M.D. completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Utah and went on to earn his Doctor of Medicine from Tulane University School of Medicine in 1974. He completed additional training at L.D.S. Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah and then established his private medical practice starting in 1975. Dr. Agren completed a mini-residency in Industrial Medicine at the Robert Johnson School of Medicine at Rutgers University and also completed training to become a certified Medical Review Officer.

Dr. Agren was the Medical Director at TRW and McDonnell Douglas in Mesa, Arizona and at Stauffer Chemical and Kennecott Copper in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at Arizona State University.

In his private medical practice, Dr. Agren specialized in family practice and allergy. In his work as a private practice allergist, he was one of the first doctors in the country to prescribe sublingual immunotherapy to his patients as an alternative to subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots). He has also been a trailblazer in the field of food allergy treatment and research, developing a program to treat multiple food allergies simultaneously using sublingual immunotherapy. Dr. Agren has been featured on local CBS, NBC, and ABC news affiliates and won the peer-nominated “Top Doc” award from Phoenix Magazine.

After 20 years in private practice, Dr. Agren became the Founder and President of AllergyEasy, which helps primary care physicians around the country offer allergy testing and sublingual immunotherapy treatment to their patients. Over 200 physicians in over 32 states use the AllergyEasy program to help their patients overcome environmental and food allergies and asthma.