Allergies On The Rise

Hunter King, Staff Member

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Allergies are hypersensitive responses by the immune system to substances that are harmless to the human body. The causes of allergic reactions are unknown, but with the prices of the EpiPens increasing, many have urged health companies and organizations to investigate the growing health problem.


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a report that showed the number of food allergy cases have increased almost 50 percent since 1997. When doctors put that in perspective, that is 1 in 13 children which translates to roughly two students in every classroom according to the report.  


Health research companies are starting to look into theories of how allergies work and how many children don’t develop symptoms until the age of six or older. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, there is one theory circulating that many healthcare professionals say could have some truth to it.


The theory is called the “hygiene hypothesis”. It states that a lack of exposure to infectious agents early in childhood can create a scenario where the immune system mistakes a food protein as an invading germ causing an allergic reaction.


“We are being too clean,” Dr. Leigh Vinocur of the American College of Emergency Physicians said. “We’re essentially creating allergies for ourselves. We’ve gotten rid of so many basic microbes that we are exposed to, that our immune systems are sitting idle, waiting to rev up for an attack.”


Among Americans, 36 million people have seasonal allergies and an additional 12 million have food allergies. The incidence of allergies and asthma is increasing in industrialized countries by about five percent each year, and as many as half of all those affected are children. Seven hundred Americans die each year from anaphylactic shock, a negative reaction to an allergen that can close airways and shut down vital organs.


There is hope for the future though. With 26 billion dollars going towards research for a cure in 2018, many health professionals are saying that the future holds “promising” results. A century ago, doctors would not believe the breakthroughs that today’s world have made, and it’s not likely that it’ll be another century before the next one.


“We are all trying to actively understand a certain part of the puzzle when it comes to allergies,” Dr. R. Sharon Chinthrajah of the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research at Stanford University said. “Understanding small pieces will help us eventually figure it out.”