Health,  Life

Allergies Are Increasing: Reasons and Countermeasures

Inherited predispositions: Allergic tendencies often run in families. If both parents have allergies, 60%-70% of their children are likely to develop allergies. If one parent is allergic, the likelihood for their children drops to 40%-50%. Researchers have found that a familial history of allergies is a risk factor for childhood asthma, and an allergic predisposition itself poses a hazard for childhood asthma.

Environmental triggers: Allergens, substances that trigger allergic reactions and aggravate symptoms, abound in our environment. Common allergens include dust mites, fungi, pollen, pet dander, certain foods, insect secretions and venoms, rubber products and household chemicals. Dust mites are among the most potent allergens and contribute significantly to indoor allergic diseases.

Seasonal and climatic influences: Pollen concentrations peak during spring and autumn in most parts of China… Climate change also influences respiratory health, exacerbating allergic respiratory conditions and asthma, as well as lengthening and intensifying pollen seasons and allergy durations. Studies show that higher CO2 concentrations boost plant photosynthesis and reproduction, significantly augmenting pollen production.

Environmental pollution: Both outdoor and indoor pollution aggravate allergies. Outdoor pollutants include particulate matter, ozone, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides while indoor pollutants include formaldehyde and tobacco smoke. Chemicals emitted from construction materials, coatings and adhesives, along with household cleaners, bleach, air fresheners, pesticides and food additives, when interacting with the human body, trigger allergic symptoms and conditions. Research indicates that increased ozone, nitrogen oxides and inhalable particulate matter from traffic pollution, as well as dust storms, intensify the allergenicity of pollen and exacerbate pollen allergy symptoms.

Changes in lifestyle and habits: Compared to past clothing made mainly from cotton, modern garments contain more wool, nylon, synthetic fibers and glass fibers— all of which are prone to trigger allergic reactions in humans, studies show. With faster living rhythms, more people opt for convenience and processed foods that may contain preservatives, additives, dyes, flavorings and other allergens. Children are susceptible to food allergies from milk, soy, eggs, peanuts and wheat while older children and adults often have nut and seafood allergies.

Psychosomatic allergies: This type of allergy results from the interplay of psychological and physiological mechanisms. In predisposed individuals, negative emotions like anger, depression and anxiety activate the sympathetic nervous system, releasing large amounts of neurotransmitters from skin cells. Histamine and serotonin, among other allergic mediators, are also released, causing symptoms like pain as well as rashes, hives and wheals.

Drug allergies: Drug allergies can occur at any age. Antimicrobials have been the most common cause of drug allergies in China over the past decade, with penicillins and cephalosporins being the most frequent triggers of anaphylaxis. Patients receiving contrast agents for imaging often have comorbid respiratory or cardiovascular conditions, making outcomes generally poor when allergic reactions occur.

Excessive hygiene: The ‘hygiene hypothesis’ posits that early exposure of children to various allergens helps their immune systems learn to respond harmlessly, preventing allergic diseases. Studies find that farm-raised children have lower rates of asthma and allergic rhinitis than those without such exposure. Modern obsession with hygiene ‘insulates’ people from microbes, depriving the immune system of opportunities to ‘train’ and reducing its ability to tolerate allergens.

Raised allergy awareness: People today pay more attention to health, and surveys show parents become proactive in learning about allergic conditions once a child is diagnosed with an allergy. With rising educational levels, people may now report more allergies.

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