An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system responds aggressively to something that poses no major health threat to most people. Allergies affect different people in different ways, resulting in a variety of internal and external responses.
Common allergens include dust mites, pollen, pet dander and food – most of which trigger mild to moderate reactions in those affected. However, many people are forced to live with allergies so severe that even the slightest exposure to a specific allergen could prove fatal.
But why is it that in the 21st century we are seeing more people being diagnosed with allergies than ever before? With such incredible medical and scientific progress having been made over the years, why are allergies becoming more prevalent across much of the world?
A Curious and Contentious Issue
The simple fact of the matter is that there is still no conclusive answer to the question. Researchers to date have not been able to pinpoint a specific reason why allergies are on the rise.
Instead, the growing prevalence of allergies worldwide is thought to be attributed to a handful of contributory factors. Each of the following could be playing its part in driving allergy diagnoses to record-highs across the developed world:
- Decreased Exposure During Childhood – Research conducted in 1989 suggests that when children come into close contact with animals at an early age, they are less likely to become allergic to them in later years. Today, there is more of a tendency to prevent younger children coming into contact with pets for prolonged periods.
- Delaying Allergenic Food Introduction – Likewise, there is a growing trend among parents to avoid introducing potentially allergenic foods into their kids’ diets until later in childhood. Examples of which include nuts and eggs – foods some experts believe should be introduced as early as possible to reduce the risk of the child developing a severe allergy.
- Proactive Attitudes to Allergies – There aresome who believe that allergies are no more commonplace today than they were in decades gone by. Instead, it is simply a case of parents and practitioners taking a more proactive approach to the diagnosis and management of allergies – particularly in children.
- Enhanced Diagnosis Methods – Likewise, today’s more advanced approaches to testing for and diagnosing allergies could be contributing to the higher numbers of people being diagnosed with various types of allergies.
- The Hygiene Hypothesis – This is a theory which basically suggests that a child’s exposure to unhygienic environments/objects plays a major role in determining their immune health and likelihood of developing allergies. Where a child is rarely or never exposed to anything unhygienic, their immune system has little opportunity to grow and develop.
- Synthetic Products and Ingredients – Lastly, there are also those who believe that the prevalence of artificial ingredients and synthetic compounds in the products we buy could be contributing to rise in diagnosed cases of allergies in the developed world.
Not only are scientists unable to explain exactly why allergies occur, but there is not yet a single outright ‘cure’ for any allergy. It is therefore essential to seek the advice of a qualified medical professional at the earliest possible stage, if you suspect that you or a member of your family has an allergy.