The symptoms aren’t simple sneezes and runny noses anymore. Today’s allergies come with rashes, hives, cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, swollen tongue and throat, tight chest, and passing out. If today’s allergy sufferers don’t have an EpiPen or can’t call an ambulance, serious complications could result.
Science and the medical industry are finding new reasons every day why allergies are rising. The fact is that allergies have become more common since the mid-20th century. Preservatives, pre-packaged foods, climate changes, massive storms, and just about everything synthetic have combined to change the atmosphere in which we live.
Before city and suburban living became the norm, people lived on farms and in the country. From childhood, they breathed nature in all her facets. The immune system recognized potential allergens and would defend against them. Playing outside in early childhood refined the immune system.
With the increase in technology, people turned in their relationship with the outside for what one would a homebody lifestyle. They sat in front of TVs, played video games, texted, and talked on Skype. Central air conditioners replaced fresh air, and well water morphed into city water. Though these are changes that were imminent, they affect all of us.
Whether you call it a hole in the ozone, global warming, or other climatic word or phrase, the air surrounding us has changed and not for the better. In the last 10 to 15 years, the instances of asthma, allergies, and other lung conditions have skyrocketed.
The major climatic change that causes the trouble is massive storms. Storms are all about changes in temperature. These are triggers for air pollution, pollen, mold spores, and poison ivy.
Massive storms pass, leaving behind bacteria, viruses, mold, and other contaminants that set off asthma and allergy attacks. These are the basis of other illnesses, but asthma and allergy sufferers get hit the worst.
To understand how stress triggers allergic reactions, it would be a good idea to understand how the immune system works. First, pollen or other foreign particulate enters the body. The immune system thinks it’s an intruder because it came from outside. The immune system produces histamine, a substance forcing the body to expel the particulate through runny nose mucus, runny eye water, sneezes, and coughs. Now the immune system knows what the particulate is, how to expel it, and prepares for the next intrusion.
Stress is a little different. The particulates are there, but the stress hormones increase the allergic reaction. The “fight or flight” hormones kick in, which makes allergic symptoms worse. This might be why so many allergy medications, both chemical and natural, make you drowsy. If you’re sleepy, then stress hasn‘t taken a huge toll on you… yet.
If you take a can of something out of a six-pack ring, eat from a plastic or foam plate or cup, feed the baby from a bottle, carry home plastic grocery bags, or buy takeout in some kind of container, then you are using synthetics. If you wear it, chances are good the fabric is synthetic. Most fabrics made are from petroleum products. When they touch the skin, contact dermatitis is the result. When consumed from products made from petroleum products such as food containers, then allergies result. The only difference is one allergic reaction is inside, and one is outside. Asthma, allergic reactions and other lung conditions result from inhaling such synthetics for a long period.
Your red Jello, Vitamin D-fortified cereal and milk, and your vanilla flavored Coke are all about food additives. According to the FDA, additives can be natural or synthetic, and they classify both the natural and synthetic as “Generally Recognized As Safe”, or GRAS.
However, some additives cause allergic reactions. Some are preservatives that keep the product fresh or prolong shelf life. Others enhance colors, flavors, or fight botulism.
Common additives include Monosodium glutamate or MSG, sulfites which prevent foods from turning colors upon contact with air, sugar substitutes like aspartame, nitrates, and paraben among others.
While allergic reactions to food additives typically last only one day, allergic reactions are rare. This being the case, no recorded symptoms exist, so doctors treat the symptoms instead of the cause.
Today’s manufacturers produce varied foods for different brands. You could get a package of pre-made mashed potatoes you can just heat in a microwave. However, its preparation is a mystery to you. The manufacturers could have made the product in the same machine that a peanut product found itself an hour before, all unbeknownst to the consumer. Those allergic to nuts would get sick.
While there are sanitary procedures to which every food producer must adhere by law, trace amounts of allergens still get into prepackaged foods. By law, producers must label their prepackaged foods with a list of allergens it contains.
Precautionary allergen labeling or PAL has become prevalent worldwide. In fact, the National Institutes of Health tells of an American study in which contamination was worse in labels stating “prepared in shared facilities” to those stating “may contain.”
Add to this the fact that the law doesn’t require food manufacturers to list trace amounts of an ingredient. Those trace amounts could be allergens to someone sensitive to the ingredient.
Stay Informed With a Specialist
Dr. Kathryn Edwards is an allergist in Princeton and Robbinsville, NJ at the offices of the plastic surgeon Daniel G. Becker. Dr. Edwards’ star has blazed from her undergraduate time at the University of Delaware to the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences to a pediatric residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Dr. Edwards also trained at the prestigious National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Edwards’ 16 years in the Army involved treating her patients in Iraq as an allergist and immunologist. She treated seasonal and environmental allergies, asthma, food allergies, and skin conditions.
Her educational accomplishments include acceptance into the competitive fellowship program in Allergy and Immunology at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, training at and being assistant chief at the National Institutes of Health, and being chief of allergy/immunology her last three years in the Army. Learn more about Dr. Edwards at the Becker ENT site.