Allergy Study

Posted by R. Power on Monday, March 16, 2015
Though similar, eczema is often an overlooked cousin when talking about allergies or asthma. Like the latter, eczema has no definitively known cause. Also like the other two, it's a chronic condition, one that acts differently with different people, and has no known cure. While plenty of research and studies have effectively calculated the real effects of asthma and allergies, in terms of money, time spent at the doctor, time missed from work or school, the same cannot be said about eczema.

More Than A Simple Rash ­ EczemaRecently, Jonathan I. Silverberg, M.D., Ph.D, M.P.H., of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, analyzed data he and his team collected from two U.S. population based samples of adults from 2010 and 2012 (27,157 and 34,613, respectively). For the first time they have begun to calculate the real cost of coping with eczema.

What researchers found was that in contrast to those without eczema, people dealing with the ailment missed more work, made more frequent doctor visits, and paid more out-of-­pocket costs. Compared to an employee who didn't have eczema, those coping with the disease spend nearly a full week (six days) more out sick every year. Not only is there a cost associated with missing work and more doctor visits, but those with eczema often paid upwards to $500 more in out­of pocket expenses than their counterparts (additional costs ranged from $371 to 489).

When you expand these numbers out over an affected adult population of about 8,000,000, you can see how these numbers very quickly add up in terms of lost time and money dealing with this itch.

Eczema May Appear to Simply Be A Rash, But It Can Be the Source of Larger ProblemsEczema is a manageable skin disease that comes in many different forms. A few symptoms listed by the National Eczema Association include dry sensitive skin, intense itching, recurring rashes, scaly areas, red, inflamed skin, and more. Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, can be triggered by a multitude of stimuli such as stress, heat, cleaning products, chemical residues, hormones, and environmental allergens. It is more prevalent in children and many grow out of it as adults, but a significant portion of those effected remain effected.

Although this data is new, it makes sense that those with eczema would need more medical attention, since the skin is the most exposed part of the human body and vulnerable to a plethora of irritants. Eczema Can Affect Skin Anywhere On the BodyBut why hasn't this new data on the cost of adult eczema been collected until recently? Though many grow out of it as adults, one in twenty adults continues to cope with eczema. Perhaps with that small ratio, it is easily over looked, and with eczema ranging in different forms and severity in symptoms, that may give reason to why it's being overlooked. The notion that many often disregard eczema as a minor nuisance makes it easier for eczema to simply be ignored (similar to how many viewed asthma in the past). This current research, however, can help break some of the misperceptions and demonstrate a very real cost in dealing with this condition.

The hope is that as new data reveals a truer cost of dealing with eczema, it can help to effect change. With more awareness it could encourage improved insurance coverage for those who are suffering from eczema. On another level, this type of information could act as a catalyst to spur research and funding to better understand the ailment and perhaps find a cure for eczema.

To answer some of your Eczema FAQs

Author: R. Power

Posted by R. Power on Saturday, October 18, 2014
Allerdent by Allovent ­ImmunotherapyWhile immunotherapy is the most effective method for allergy management, it's more difficult to make it as much of a habit as say, brushing your teeth.... until now? You soon may be able to do just that immunotherapy WHILE brushing your teeth! Allergy patients at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City are currently brushing with Allerdent, a specially formulated immunotherapy toothpaste delevoped by Dr. William Reisacher and Allovate, LLC. Allovate, LLC. is a start up pharmaceutical company, specializing in innovative and improved approaches to allergy immunotherapy. Using Allerdent as their product platform this could be the next big thing to replace our traditional immunotherapy treatments that are currently in use.

Brushing Your Way to Allergy Relief"If you can contact those extracts with the lining of the mouth then you can desensitize patients to those allergens and essentially cure them of their allergies" explains Dr. Reisacher. Allerdent will be customized to each person's needs, containing the specific allergen(s) that the patient is allergic to. Dereck Lacarubba is a patient who currently participates in this Allerdent experiment, and is allergic to cats, dogs, tree pollen and dust. He claims that it works and tastes just like regular fluoride toothpaste. Further, he says it's been helping him with his environmental allergies day after day.

The current options for allergy immunotherapy (IT) are Subcutaneous Immunotherapy (SCIT), better known as allergy shots, or daily Sublingual Immunotherapy Treatment (SLIT), drops under the tongue. However, there are many obstacles that contribute to less than 5% of allergy rhinitis patients actually receiving either of these types of immunotherapy.

Allergy shots are costly, time consuming, weekly visits for three to five years (and we know how long doctor visits take), and the presence of needles is a problem some, both adults and children alike. SLIT drops are to be taken everyday, and placed under you tongue for two minutes. Like birth control or acid reflux medicine, you can't skip a day or else it will not be as effective as it should be. For many, this stringent routine is difficult to maintain. SLIT is also a method that is currently NOT endorsed by the FDA. That lack of endorsement adds some measure of skepticism to this method allergy immunotherapy.

One Habit, Two Positive Benefits?Allerdent is a very innovative yet simple idea, that takes your existing routine, brushing your teeth, and adds in the practice of receiving immunotherapy. This simple yet novel approach is what makes Allerdent so promising. I would love to kill two birds with one stone, keeping my oral hygiene up while having the ability to snuggle up to a cat without the tidal wave of congestion and itchy, watery eyes that currently accompanies it. I'm sure others are also excited to cross off biweekly doctor's visits from their agendas or cease taking medications that aren't currently FDA approved. Either way, novel approaches like this, regardless of outcome, present a new twist to traditional treatment and pavethe way for the better treatments of the future.

For more information about Allovate or Allerdent.

Author: R. Power

Posted by R. Power on Friday, October 17, 2014
After watching the second episode of American Horror Story: Freak Show, Halloween Is the Perfect Time to Discuss How Clowns Creep Many of Us Out!I found a study in this month's Allergy Journal about using "medical clowns" to help entertain and distract children while receiving skin prick tests (SPT) and allergy shots. With Halloween nearly upon us, this blog could not have provided a more opportune time to discuss the fear that clowns instill into both children and adults. Before I get to this though, let's take a look at the study.

Medical Clowns for Allergies - He Seems Like a Happy-Go-Lucky Chap!The Sackler School of Medicine of Tel-Aviv University and the Allergy and Clinical Immunology Unit, Meir Hospital, Kfar-Saba used medical clowns to accompany children during various tests and medical procedures. Researchers concluded in the abstract of their research that "Medical Clowns significantly decrease the level of anxiety perceived by both children undergoing SPT and their parents, as well as pain perceived by young children (Goldberg et al., 2014)".

I'm not sure what kind of clowns they have in Israel, but when I think about clowns, I don't visualize clowns to have a calming presence in any medical situation! Have you been watching American Horror Story?? If you haven't, the scariest character on the show is Twisty the Clown who debuted as a serial killer. Probably NOT the Clown You Want to See for Your Child's Doctor VisitEven prior to Twisty, who wasn't creeped-out by Pennywise the Dancing Clown from Stephen King's IT or Captain Spaulding from the Rob Zombie movies? That's just to name a few.

Even Ronald McDonald and birthday party clowns have been making children and adults uncomfortable for quite some time now. Clowns have enjoyed a long history in this country, but the perception of clowns has dramatically changed for significant portion of the American public. In fact, 20-30% of the US population are fairly uncomfortable with clowns, and ≈2% of the adult population have coulrophobia (fear of clowns).

Yup, Seems Like Nightmare Material to Me!Veteran psychologist, Dr. Brenda Wiederhold who runs a phobia anxiety treatment center in San Diego, CA, explains that coulrophobia starts in early childhood as a pediatric phobia of costumed characters (clowns, the Easter Bunny, etc.) but most people grow out of this fear as they begin to develop the ability to separate fantasy from reality. But even as adults, many are often unsettled by the presence of clowns, particularly from the inability to read genuine emotion and facial expressions that are concealed by face-paint. Of course, Hollywood and media also bear some responsibility for shaping the perception of clowns today, which tend to be manic, a tad bit demonic and unpredictable. That's putting it kindly in many cases.

Not the Clown President, But He Gives Clowns a Good NameCurrently the President of Clowns of America International (Oh dear Lord, they're organized!), Glenn Kohlberg, has expressed his disapproval for American Horror Story's Twisty the Clown character. He does not have a high opinion of Hollywood profiting from the "sensationalism of evil clowns," as stated in The Hollywood Reporter.

Hopefully medical clowns can help rehabilitate the image of clowns, bringing back their original roles as "ambassadors of joy", and weaning the public eye away from their reputation as a character that keeps some of us awake at night. How about you? Are clowns creepy or fun? Would you welcome a clown as a distraction while your child was being administered a skin prick test or allergy shots? Or are you just as disturbed as I am that clowns have an international organization?

For an overview of the medical clown study.

Author: R. Power

Posted by KevvyG on Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Last week we saw a flurry of articles written about the release of a study in the British Journal of Dermatology. The reason for publicity is that part of the research takes aim at an activity that pregnant women commonly engage in and its potential link to the development of asthma in the unborn child. I'm not talking about cravings, though that IS always a fun and revealing topic to delve into. At this point, my title gives it all away - swimming. So before we figuratively (and literally) jump overboard, let's take a look at this theory.

First, this was a difficult article to find. Despite so many news articles written about it, there was literally only one article that actually cited the original abstract. Typical of research pieces, the title was not something that made the association between it and the content evident to a layperson. Posted below, the research piece starts by mentioning the "hygiene theory". This is the theory that the rise in allergic disease in western societies is at least in part due to children not being exposed to a variety of microorganisms during key developmental periods. More simply put, the theory suggests that we're too clean. The proliferation of antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers, the focus on everything in the home and office being clean, the Pregnancy, the Hygiene Hypothesis and Swimmingprolific use of antibiotics, and the reduction in the amount of time that children spend outdoors, exposed to germs and allergens, creates an environment where a developing immune system isn't properly trained. Subsequently, the immune system falsely recognizes allergens, microbes and other environmental elements as "bad actors" and when exposed to them, triggers an immune response to promptly boot them off stage.

This is only a theory and some of the most recent research has punched some holes into it. The current piece though expands on the hygiene theory and suggests that exposure to certain chemicals may play a role in the development of allergic disease. In this particular instance, researchers are focused on airborne chemicals. They have found that five specific maternal occupations are characterized by "high or persistent exposure to airborne chemicals." Additionally, they suggest that sustained exposure to chlorinated chemicals from swimming pools may also be related to the development of allergic disease.

VOCs, including chlorinated compounds like chloramines, have long been studied and show links to a variety of health problems. This study though, has caused a stir because of the mention of chlorine and swimming. Swimming is an often recommended activity for mothers to be since it is a great way to maintain a healthy weight, and unlike many other forms of aerobic exercise, swimming allows for better overall support of the body. The British National Health Service recommends swimming for pregnant women, and the U.S. National Institute of Health has sponsored studies that show swimming has no "adverse reproductive outcomes". Swimming in Lake MichiganHowever, the study we're currently focused on is one that looks less at swimming as an activity and more at the exposure to chemicals.

In not only the occupations highlighted but also swimming in chlorinated pools, researchers have suggested there is a association between VOCs and chlorine vapor and the development of atopic disease like asthma. So with that being said, are there alternatives to chlorinated swimming pools? While you can certainly wear a asthma mask to reduce exposure to pollutants (like the Honeycomb Carbon mask I recently picked up for a friend who is pregnant with her first child), a mask isn't really an ideal device to swim with.

A coworker of mine suggested saline or "salt water" pools. Personally, I've never swum or even heard of such a thing, but after some research as well as a call to a local apartment complex that has a saline pool and another to a retailer of such pools, I found one thing that appears to be true. Saline pools aren't as free of chlorine vapor as you might think. While they do use less chlorine, they still do use chlorine to sanitize the pools. They rely upon an advanced filtration system that uses the salt in the water to produce chlorine. And like traditional swimming pools, they do require a good deal of maintenance to ensure proper pH balance and chlorine levels are maintained to keep the water sanitary.

So what about the ocean, nature's original "salt water pool"? Love it. The ocean is great! Unfortunately, not all pregnant women have easy access to the ocean, not to mention some times of the year are simply too cold to go for a super brisk swim (all while pregnant nonetheless). Lakes and rivers might also be excellent alternatives, but Best Place to Swim?  Yup!again, access to these bodies of water may be limiting, as could be the weather. Still, in coastal areas or in places where weather permits, all three of these would be good alternatives to chlorinated swimming pools.

This study isn't definitive, and like other theories, a great deal of further research is needed to more clearly define the association, its consequences and suitable alternatives. I'm not suggesting you completely jump ship and avoid chlorinated swimming pools (bad pun #2). I generally do simply because I grew up swimming in lakes, rivers and "cricks" (what, up home, we define as bigger than a stream but smaller than a creek). Chlorinated pools are ubiquitous, particularly here in the U.S., and access to them is often free and convenient, but if this potential does give you cause for concern, consult with your obstetrician to find suitable exercise alternatives, or at a minimum, cut back on the frequency of swimming in them while pregnant.

Perhaps this all gives new meaning to one of my grandmother's favorite sayings, "Why don't you go jump in a lake?!" Thanks Grandma!

The original abstract of this research piece.

Author: K. Gilmore

Posted by KevvyG on Monday, August 19, 2013
This August has seen the release of two new studies involving bisphenol A (BPA) and potential health effects. Since both deal with different subjects, I'll address them BPA Is Often Found in the Lining of Processed Food Cans and Plasticsseparately, but each contribute to a growing body of work that focuses on BPA (commonly found in plastics and the lining used with canned foods). Previous studies have found that BPA has estrogenic properties and may lead to long term negative health consequences. While the FDA has set acceptable limits on the amount of BPA that can be used in products, they have also taken the more recent steps of recognizing BPA as an endocrine disruptor and banning the use of BPA in plastic baby bottles.

The first study comes from California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC) and focuses on fetal BPA exposure to rhesus macaque monkeys. This primate was chosen since fetal lung development more closely resembles that of humans than previously studied animals (namely rodents). During this study, pregnant rhesus macaques received BPA via a subcutaneous implant during one of two time periods, comparable to the second and third trimester in humans). Since the study was originally meant to focus on BPA's effect on female reproductive development, only female fetuses were examined, and at the end of each group's exposure period, fetal airway tissue samples were collected and analyzed.

With the samples, researchers looked for variations in lung and airway development. For the first group, those exposed during the "second trimester", there was no significant difference in the mucous cell abundance or the secretory protein expression when compared to the control. However, those exposed during the equivalent of the last trimester not only showed a greater abundance of mucous cells, but the expression of MuC5B gene was nearly 6x higher than the samples that received no BPA exposure. The differences in samples was most pronounced in the bronchi. An increase in mucous cells is one early indicator of asthma or bronchitis, and when taken with previous research, this study seems to point towards a link between fetal exposure to BPA and respiratory development.

It should be cautioned that this study was small, and only highlights a potential link. It is also not known whether BPA directly caused this difference between test samples or if it altered some other function during development that caused the difference. Interestingly though, another article, published in Pediatrics calls into question the use of urine concentrations of BPA as indicators of exposure. The author highlights some instances where testing has shown that the concentrations of BPA in serum (a blood fluid) was actually lower than what was recorded in urine samples and that because of the way the body metabolizes BPA, urinary concentrations might not be the best indicator. The ironic part is that while this article calls several things into question, it does note that many of the studies have not been performed on primates. The subjects of both the first and next study I'm going to mention were performed on primates, and only one used urinary BPA levels.

The second study, published today in Pediatrics, focused on BPA and its potential link to chronic disease risk factors in children. When accounting for things like soda consumption, tobacco exposure, demographics, etc., University of Michigan researchers showed that higher levels of urinary BPA were linked to higher odds of obesity. While no connection between BPA and any other chronic disease risk factor was found, it is worth noting that BPA is a highly fat soluble substance. Though not tested, theoretically, someone who is overweight could possibly retain more BPA than someone thinner.

All three of these articles further the debate surrounding the use of BPA, and each adds another wrinkle to the debate over the long term consequences of BPA exposure. This is important if for no other reason than this. A 2007 study, funded by the National Institute of Health (NiH), found that over 90% of urine samples collected in children and adults over the age of six has detectable levels of BPA.

Author: K. Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Thursday, July 11, 2013
An article recently published by a group of Swedish researchers calls into question some of the zeal over fatty acids in our diet. With the seemingly endless parade of ads for supplements rich in antioxidants and fatty acids, this latest research piece demonstrates a link between high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and an increased risk of the development of allergies.

Common Source of Fatty Acids - FishPolyunsaturated fatty acids is a broad category that includes many compounds, including the most commonly known Omega 3 (n-3) as well as the lesser known Omega 6 (n-6) and Omega 9 (n-9) fatty acids. The role these acids play in the human diet is complex and still continues to evolve, though Omega 3 and others are most commonly associated with anti-inflammatory properties.

Studies over the last few decades have shown a general lack of these compounds in the western diet and associated it with an increase in inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, COPD and even asthma. Omega 3 fatty acids are most commonly found in fish oils as well as some plant oils, and as a more recent trend, have been appearing in increasing amounts on store shelves, as dietary supplements. More recent research blurs the lines a bit by suggesting that things like Omega 3 may not be the miracle cure all the hype would lead you to believe, yet most concede that while the positives may not be as grand as originally billed, there are few drawbacks.

This latest piece of research builds upon a piece originally published in 2008 that produced similar results but on a smaller scale. In this Swedish study published in PLOS One, roughly 800 children were chosen from a population based group of 1228 born in the same year. From this group, samples of the umbilical cord serum were taken then analyzed and compared with standardized allergy test results taken over the course of the next 13 years.

Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acid Molecule - Omega 3The results showed that in children at age 13 demonstrated higher rates of respiratory allergies than those whose mothers had lower levels of PUFAs at birth. Not only did children with respiratory allergies exhibit this link but so did children who suffered from chronic skin rashes. Those who exhibited higher rates of allergies also had lower levels of mono-unsaturated fats found in the cord blood sample. So to simplify this - Higher levels of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids found in the cord blood correlated with higher rates of respiratory allergies and chronic skin rashes (think eczema), and it did not matter if the mother had a history of allergies or not. The correlation rates were still higher regardless of maternal allergy history.

So what does all this mean? For now, not much. This research piece is just another step along the way of understanding the origins of allergic disease. Though researchers demonstrated this correlation, what they could not determine was the mechanism behind this. The working theory is that the PUFAs dampen inflammation and the immune activation process, the same process that is thought to "train" an infants immune system to determine is harmful and what is not. This seems to fit since much of allergic disease is the immune system's overreaction to harmless "allergens." Further research is still needed to discover what the exact mechanism behind this is as well how to approach the consumption of PUFAs during pregnancy.

To read the full research article.

Author: Kevin Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Tuesday, May 07, 2013
My Godson, 'You did what with my binky??' I came across this on the drive in to work yesterday morning, and it reminded me of just a few short years ago.  From time to time I would babysit my godson, and for quite a while, he used a pacifier (which I always call a "binky").  Like many babies and very young children, he took comfort in a pacifier.  It was often the "go-to" thing at bedtime or when he was fussy.  When babysitting, the pacifier would inevitably fall from his mouth and land on the floor.  More often than not, I would see it happen, pick it up, make sure there was no dog hair or big chunk of dirt on it then pop it back in.  I can hear a few people gasping, but generally speaking, "dirt don't hurt" was a saying that my brothers and I practiced on a daily basis as children. My one brother's nickname was literally "dirt" since he was generally filthy from playing outside so much.  This is all a bit circuitous, but it leads me to two things, the hygiene hypothesis and a recent study published in Pediatrics.

While my approach in cleaning the pacifier is probably not taken by many, this recently published study I mention focuses not only on how parents cleaned their children's pacifier but also how it may impact the development of eczema and allergies.  In examining 184 children, researchers studied what the children were sensitive to, how parents cleaned their pacifiers, and analyzed the bacteria in the children's mouths.  At 18 and even 36 months, children whose parents cleaned their pacifiers by sucking on them, showed remarkable protection against eczema and asthma.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Some parents clean their child's pacifier by sucking it clean then giving it back to the child.  Odd as it may sound, this is believed to be the key findings of the study.

Regardless of how "clean" we, as a species, think we are, there are literally billions of bacteria living on and even inside of us.  On our skin, in our digestive tracts and in our mouths, bacteria play a very important part in everything from our immune system to the way in which we break down our food.  The theory is that by sucking on the pacifier the parent not only cleans visible dirt or debris from it, but they actually place bacteria back onto it.  That bacteria is then introduced to the child, exposing the child's immune system to a broader array of bacteria.  This ties into the hygiene hypothesis in that many believe children in western societies are "too clean," and because of this, are at an increased risk of developing things like eczema, asthma or allergies.

When we are infants, our bodies' systems are developing.  Think of the immune system like a defense mechanism that is untrained.  By nature, this system is designed to find things harmful to us and fight them, so at a very early age, the immune system is trying to determine what is dangerous and what can be ignored.  The hygiene theory suggests that lack of exposure to a variety of bacteria and germs means the system doesn't get thorough training and often identifies innocuous substances as harmful.  "Well, we have to find the shady characters to defend you against, and I don't like the looks of these guys." So when they immune system cannot find real enemies, they start identifying harmless substances as dangerous.

The hygiene hypothesis is just that, a hypothesis, and there are some studies that run counter to this.  This piece of research, though, suggests that there is some validity to it.  While it is too early to suggest that parents start sucking on their kid's pacifier to clean it, it really can't hurt.  Oh, and just for the record, most parents simply rinse the pacifier.  I guess I all into that "other" category.

For an abstract of the pacifier study.

Author: KevvyG

Posted by kevvyg on Sunday, August 12, 2012
Genetics and Allergic DiseasesLike many health issues and conditions, the primary determining factors are genetics and the environment. Both are not weighted equally in any given situation, but both play a role in the development of most medical conditions and diseases. Even when the specific causes of a condition, like allergies, asthma and eczema, are unknown, evidence is strong that these two factors are important. A recent study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggests a very strong link between parents with allergic diseases and the chances of their same sex offspring in developing allergic diseases.

Using a combination of IgE blood tests, skin prick tests and close examination of parental history, researchers studied parents and monitored their children for their entire childhood. In collecting and analyzing the data they found that when a mother had asthma or eczema their female children demonstrated a nearly 50% increase in the risk of developing that same condition. The same was not true for male children. However, this a near identical increase in risk was seen when examining paternal conditions and their male offspring. Simply put, if a mother had asthma or eczema, her daughter was 50% more likely to develop the same condition. Her son, saw little to no appreciable increase in risk. If a father had asthma or eczema, his son was 50% more likely to develop the same disease while his daughter was not.

This is important for two reasons. In the more long term, it more clearly defines the genetic link between parents and children when it comes to allergic diseases. The genetics behind conditions like eczema will ultimately be key in preventing them. In the short term, because this link has been more readily defined, it could make it easier in the future to diagnose allergies and eczema. Patient history is a critical factor in determining asthma but even more so for allergies. Blood and skin prick tests can show sensitivities but it is not until a doctor sees the full picture of the patient's medical and family history that a most accurate diagnosis can be given.

To read an abstract of the study.

To view eczema friendly personal care products.

Author: Kevin Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Thursday, May 10, 2012
As the prevalence of asthma and allergies continues to climb in most Western societies, the causes of these chronic conditions are still not known. Though, with a collection of news stories, research pieces, and press releases coming in over the last couple weeks, the 'Hygiene Hypothesis' on allergies is only looking stronger. Of these, the most prominent were studies that examined Finnish children and another that took a look at Amish children in Indiana and the link between growing up in more "natural environments" and a predisposition for allergies and asthma.

In the Finnish study, 14-18 year olds were tested to compare how many and what kinds of bacteria, particularly gammaproteobacteria, could be found in and on their bodies. This data, when compared to the type of environment they grew up in, showed that children who had Amish, Allergies & Asthma grown up and lived in more natural environments (read, less urban; more trees, less asphalt), showed a greater diversity of these tiny bacteria in their skin. They were also LESS likely to suffer from allergies.

Though the second study was very general in nature, in comparing Amish farm children with Swiss farm children and Swiss children who did not live on farms, they found that children not on farms had the highest rates of asthma and allergen sensitivity. Swiss children on farms had lower rates of asthma but the same sensitivities to allergies; and Amish children on farms had the lowest rates of asthma and sensitivities to allergies.

While neither study is a smoking gun, solidly proving the Hygiene Hypothesis, both lend at least some measure of support to the idea that the more sanitized the environment we grow up in, the more likely our immune systems are going to go haywire around harmless substances, like pollen, pet dander and dust.

As someone who grew up in a very rural part of Ohio, my siblings and I have experiences that fit this theory. Having spent much of my childhood on our family farm, playing in the woods, or chasing chickens, there are few instances outside of school where any of my sibling and I were "clean." My father literally nicknamed my one brother, "Dirt". To this day, none of us three older boys have any problems with allergies or asthma, despite a family history of the latter.

While surely it is anecdotal, my two youngest siblings both suffered from asthma. Between us three elder boys and the younger two, there is nearly a 13 year gap. My youngest brother and sister did not grow up as we had. The amount of time they spent inside as children was Ok, so maybe this garden pic isn't exactly true to my experience, but still..... inconceivable for us older three. In the summer, it was fairly common for the doors to the house to be locked. And why not? We had eaten breakfast or lunch. We lived off a dirt road and generally saw two vehicles pass by every day. We had a spigot outside, and air conditioning isn't cheap when you have three kids running in and out all day long.

So while the two youngest children in my family enjoyed the convenience of air conditioning, Playstation and Wii, the dirt, germs, and farm life likely served our immune systems better.... which I think is only fair considering the hundreds of rows of carrots, corn, potatoes, and peppers in our family garden that three older boys weeded throughout our childhood. To date, the youngest two siblings pulled weeds out of exactly zero rows of crops in the garden.

Abstract of the Finnish Biodiversity & Allergies Study.

Indiana Study of Amish and Asthma & Allergies.

Posted by kevvyg on Wednesday, February 01, 2012
A study released in this month's issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology suggests that some instances of asthma may be related to what could be classified as an allergic response to bacteria.

The allergic response, though not fully understood, is often fairly simple. When protein allergens like pollen, dander or dust mites enter airways and bind to IgE (Immunoglobulin E) receptors, mast cells release histamines which cause the swelling and inflammation. These are often what are behind the sneezing, congestion, and watery eyes.

For this study, researchers introduced Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a common infection causing bacteria, in to mice. In response to this foreign bacteria in the lungs, white blood cells produced very high levels of histamine.Allergic Mouse

While histamine production in the lungs is not uncommon (histamines cause the most common symptom of asthma - inflammation) what is most significant is that it was produced by white blood cells, NOT the mast cells that produce histamines in allergic responses.

This study further complicates the blurry line between allergic and asthmatic responses, by showing that a common bacteria can cause white blood cells to exhibit allergen response-like traits. Ultimately, studies like this not only shed more light on the processes underlying these responses but can also lead a better understanding of how the body can combat allergies and asthma.

Author: Kevin Gilmore

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