New research is emerging that shows a link between your environment and the development of allergies. Westernized nations, like the United States and Europe, have greater levels of allergic disorders. Allergies are much more common in suburban areas than rural areas. It all points to a disturbing and counter-intuitive theory: we may be too clean and too safe for our own good. It’s called the Hygiene Hypothesis.
Children are exposed at an early age to parasites and bugs. That shifts your immune system. When you’re young, it’s learning a lot, too. By limiting children’s exposure to germs, dirt, and infections with cleaner lifestyles, vaccines, and antibiotics, their developing immune systems have little to fight off. The result: the immune system actually develops something to fight – allergies.
Adding to the epidemic-like status of allergies are the converging trends of higher awareness and self-misdiagnosis. Penicillin is a perfect example. Only three percent of people who think they are allergic to penicillin are actually allergic. Many people also confuse food allergies with food intolerance.
Taking all of this into consideration, can you prevent allergies? Not exactly, but you can take action. Be aware of your family history of allergic disorders, allergies, allergic asthma, and eczema. If so, delaying introduction of the top allergens may help prevent allergic development. Heed the Hygiene Hypothesis and get a little dirty. While unsanitary conditions aren’t recommended, don’t overprotect children from germs. Follow emerging research on the development of allergies and new treatments options. Most importantly - get tested. Successfully managing allergies starts with proper diagnosis. It’s recommended that people who have constant congestion, colds, recurrent sinus/ear infections, bronchitis, or asthma get screened by a board certified Allergist. Many times these apparently unrelated symptoms have allergic triggers.