For many centuries, nature has posed countless threats to human beings, though most of these threats have been mastered in some way. From agriculture and animal domestication to advancements in medical science like medication and glasses, we humans have most hurdles figured out.
Still, prescient parents offer two bowls of candy during Halloween: peanut-free and regular. Not all families can support a pet when they’re choking to death and their eyes are watering. Whether they’re deadly or mildly troublesome, allergies are some of nature’s most indomitable obstacles hindering the daily lives of millions of people. Peanuts and pollen are definitely common perpetrators inside and outside alike, but the scope of allergens is much more massive than this potent duo: Molds, bugs, and latex can all do just as much damage.
Given the gigantic scope of items to which people are allergic, over 50 million Americans are allergic to something, placing allergies among the most common chronic illnesses in the United States. That virtually all allergens aren’t intrinsically destructive begs the question, “Why are we allergic?” If we love our furry friends and if peanuts are indeed as nutritious as they are delicious, then why do those things launch our immune systems into attack mode?
A Universal Response, No Matter The Setting
Immune systems are highly complex security systems, not only keeping germs out, but destroying any who’ve passed the outermost defenses. What makes an allergen different from a universally harmful pathogen is exactly that, while the body tags allergens as pathogens, allergens aren’t actually harmful. Your body would prefer to err on the side of caution. In accordance with evolution, overactive immune systems are better for us than underactive ones, so here we are, a species whose bodies fight uselessly against inoffensive substances.
The primary process of noting allergens as genuinely harmful is known as “sensitization.” Through ingestion or inhalation, an irritant enters the body. Cells in the body commit to memory the properties of the irritant, which triggers the production of antibodies who are capable of discovering and halting subsequent cases of that irritant’s trespassing. Should the irritant ever return, the immune response will be triggered, watering unfortunate eyeballs and constricting odd throats. A baby may swallow a single peanut in isolation, and for the rest of its life, its face will swell whenever it has another peanut. Generally, other symptoms of allergies include headaches, stuffy noses, or fatigue.
The Response’s Origin
With regard to culprits, evolution is a strong contender. Allergies may have also risen among us because of modern day-to-day environments. Today’s living spaces are cleaner than they’ve ever been, offering less and less exposure to pests, dust, and pollen. Research suggests that this cleanliness has made us too sensitive to the elements. When a child’s body develops tolerance against many different germs, its body has a greater ability to differentiate between what’s bad and what’s meaningless. In general, children need to play outside in order to become used to different possible triggers. Indoors or outdoors, toddlers eat stuff off the floor – as they should!
Parents can also moderate this exposure in a more controlled manner. Introducing typical ingestible allergens to children (babies or adolescents) in very minute quantities strengthens those children against future allergic reactions. These common allergens are foods like eggs, nuts, and shellfish.
What to Do
First, try antihistamines, medications that stop the effects of histamine. Histamine is a bodywide substance that brings about common allergy symptoms. Those with allergies may take antihistamines orally, though there are also eye drops and nasal sprays. If you don’t have access to antihistamines, more primitive solutions are at home.
For example, a cold and damp towel can help with watery or swollen eyes. Simply place a towel over your eyes for a few minutes. If you’re having problems with pet dander or dust, a deep clean of your home might go a long way and demonstrate a long-term effect. The effects of pet dander can be further addressed by owning hypoallergenic breeds and regularly brushing your pets outside, keeping that dander out of your living room. Finally, honey is a natural antihistamine whose properties may lessen the general effects of allergies. Take honey either with tea or by itself.
Having allergies is a buzzkill, so consider your arsenal, from medication to an at home allergy test. Ultimately, if research is to uncover the origin of allergies, then there’s a lot more work to do, but many possible explanations lead to many possible remedies to make life with allergies much more bearable. With their primary roots in evolution, allergies are potent foes that continue to plague us in the modern day, but there are multiple ways to fight back or make a difference for our loved ones who have allergies.