Friday, March 24, 2006

2313 Do you have allergies?

A few weeks ago I went out for dinner with my daughter and her husband. While we were browsing the menu she mentioned being allergic to certain items. I was a bit puzzled because she didn't have any allergies growing up in our home in the 70s and 80s. "What are you allergic to?" I asked. "Oh, everything," she replied.

This week reported: "A recent nationwide survey found that more than half (54.6%) of all US citizens test positive to 1 or more allergens, and allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic disease, with an estimated $18 billion annual healthcare cost. Alarmingly, this statistic is estimated to increase, presenting increasing challenges to patients and physicians alike to its management. Although self-help strategies, such as avoiding the allergen can be helpful, in most cases, this is difficult and inadequate and most sufferers rely on pharmacologic intervention. Because allergic disease in most cases is lifelong, effective management needs to be immediate, efficacious, and long-term. Despite the availability of several pharmacologic options, the effectiveness of current therapies is limited by treatment formulations, frequency of dosage, and side effects, which can have an impact on treatment compliance and overall outcomes."

Thinking back, the only allergy I can recall knowing about when I was a child was that Francine, a classmate, had hay fever and she was miserable certain times of the year. So where did all this come from? The article suggests that 95% of our time is now spent indoors with constant exposure to allergens like pet dander, dust mites, mold spores and cockroach particles.

Well, let's take a look at this--what is indoors with us? When I was a child, most pets lived out of doors, in the basement, or on the porch. I don't think I knew a single person who slept with an animal, unless maybe the hired man on the farm napped in the hay mow. No one had wall to wall carpet, and rugs were periodically moved to the outdoors and beaten and left in the sun. Sheets were washed AND ironed--many with a mangle, which must have killed off a lot of dust mites.

Homes for the most part were not insulated when I was a child. The house we lived in here in Columbus for 34 years (built in 1939) had air space between the outside and inside walls--no insulation--and we had very reasonable heating bills. Air is a good insulator. Now we stuff or blow in all sorts of synthetic material and houses are much tighter. The house can't breathe and neither can you! And speaking of synthetics, we didn't have a lot of that--oh, yes, we wore nylon and rayon occasionally, but rugs and clothing were mainly cotton and wool when I was growing up. Most of that textile material did not come from Asia, South America or China.

Children spent a lot more time out doors 40 or 50 years ago. They weren't sitting in front of the TV or computer with a pet on their laps eating snacks. Also, we just weren't as concerned about cleanliness 40 or 50 years ago. A bath once or twice a week, or washing your hair once a week was considered just about right. That meant you didn't have as much soap and chemical residue on your skin and hair, nor did you smear on lotion to replace lost body moisture. Nobody had a hair dryer to blow dust around. There were no air conditioners were mold would grow and get blown into the house. You didn't have mold growing in the automatic defrost section of the refrigerator, because you only had manual defrost. Oh yes, and most people didn't have clothes dryers which also leak lint and dust into the air of a home and you used laundry soap, not detergents.

No one ate in restaurants except on special occasions, so if we shared germs, it was those to which we had some immunity. We all ate rather plain, homecooked food with very few additives or colors. Deep frying and reusing oil? Maybe if we bought a do-nut from the bakery. We ate meat, but not as much as today, and those animals weren't raised with antibiotics. The eggs and chickens were fresh, free-range for the most part (as a child I even watched them jump around the back yard headless after my dad chopped off their heads).

And everyone seemed to smoke--even up to about 10 years ago. I wonder how many little critters that killed off that we now are allergic to?

Now I'm no tree-hugger who thinks we need to go back to the way things were (and I'm going to a restaurant tonight for our Friday night date), but there are unintended consequences to "progress." $18 billion a year is a lot to sneeze at for "pharmacologic options." Might be smart to put the cat or dog in another room at night, and go outside more often to breath some fresh air. Couldn't hurt.


Joan said...

Perfect timing! I have been MISERABLE the last two days. I cannot remember ever having such severe allergy symptoms before. I have not slept for 3 nights because I become so very congesting when lying down.

You make some good points as to possible causes of the increase in the incidence of allergies, although we have no animals in our home. I'll admit, however, that the dust level is much higher than it should be!

Unknown said...

You've made some good points here, something to think about.

Anonymous said...

I agree at many points, but my differs on some points. We have noticed the same development over here in Sweden with allergies.

Differences from yours:

- Pets lived indoors
- Wall to wall carpet
- Sheets were not ironed
- Homes were insulated
- Not so much wool any more
- Some TV-time, snacks, pets
- Showers more often than 1-2/week
- Some Lotion used
- Hair dryers used
- Detergents used
- We ate more meat

When I grow up (born 1959) there were hardly any allergies at all either. Nowadays every one is.

They have discussed this a lot over here and at first the blamed the pets a lot. They have come to change that opinion a bit, even experienced the opposite.

They said in some investigations that the allergies actually increased if not exposed to the pets in early ages. It may have something to do with that fact that we are too clean today, which make us more sensitive.

We're exposed to a lot more chemicals that we weren't back then. Both by the air and through our food or other things we come in contact with.

There are certain substances used that can cause allergies to break out for people who never had one before. Some glue types is like that, I don't know the name of it in English, here it's called Epoxy glue. It's hyper allergenic.

I've seen close up, the effects of it and who knows how many substances like that we're exposed to in our lifes?

This is not evolution, it's running backwards, sadly enough.