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The Truth About Allergy Myths

FIVE POSSIBLE CAUSES OF THE RISE IN ALLERGIES


How many people in the US have allergies? The statistics are staggering. Some 40 million Americans suffer from allergic reactions to airborne allergens like pollen, dust mites, or pet dander.1 And that number is rising quickly: around 7% of American adults receive a new diagnosis of allergic rhinitis (the medical term for allergies or “hay fever”) every year.2 What’s behind this allergy epidemic? Here are 5 possible factors:

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1. CLIMATE CHANGE

As warmer springs cause pollen-producing plants to emerge earlier and have longer active periods, allergy season is starting earlier and ending later than it used to. Plus a higher concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere provides a definite advantage for many pollen-producing plants, including ragweed, the number one allergen.3

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2. THE HYGIENE HYPOTHESIS

Some experts believe that our lifestyles are too “clean”, making it difficult for our immune systems to differentiate between harmful and harmless substances. In fact, studies show that allergy rates among people who live on farms are actually lower than that of the general population.4

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3. THE BIODIVERSITY HYPOTHESIS

Most of us are spending less time in outdoors. The “biodiversity hypothesis” suggests that less contact with the natural environment affects your body’s ability to defend itself against allergens.5

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4. URBAN LIVING

City living is on the rise. By 2030, as much as 60% of the world’s population is expected to be living in urban centers. Scientists have noted that the incidence of allergies is significantly higher in urban areas.6

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5. INDOOR LIVING

On average, we spend up to 90% of every day indoors—in well-insulated buildings and homes with ventilated heating and air-conditioning. So while we may be keeping the outdoor allergens out, we’re also keeping the indoor allergens and irritants in.7

Sources:

1. AAFA. Allergy facts and figures. http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=9&sub=30#_ftn1. Accessed February 1, 2015.


2. CDC Vital and Health Statistics, series 10, no. 260, February 2014.

3. AAFA. Ragweed allergy. http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=9&sub=19&cont=267. Accessed February 5, 2015.

4. AAAAI. What do the Amish have to do with the hygiene hypothesis? https://www.aaaai.org/Aaaai/media/MediaLibrary/PDF%20Documents/Media/What-do-the-Amish-have-to-do-with-the-hygiene-hypothesis.pdf. Accessed February 1, 2015

5. D’Amato, G, Cecchi, L, D’Amato, M, Liccardi, G. Urban air pollution and climate change as environmental risk factors of respiratory allergy: An update. J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol. 2010; 20(2): 95-102.

6. Trupin L, et al. an integrated model of environmental factors in adult asthma lung function and disease severity: a cross-sectional study. Environmental Health. 2010; 9(24).

7. Hanski, I et al. Environmental biodiversity, human microbiota, and allergy are interrelated. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012; 109(21): 8334–8339.