Research indicates that adult-onset allergies may be caused by hygiene hypothesis, notes physician
Physician Matthew Bogard explains that according to the "hygiene hypothesis," when a person tries to force himself or herself into a hygienic environment, the response to the lack of bacteria may cause the allergies.
You might be wondering why you are suddenly sneezing uncontrollably to cat dander when you love cats. Maybe a type of food that you have always thought about eating no longer seems to be in the cards because you just about died the last time you had a taste.
Before we talk about why, let's talk about how allergies come about. When your body experiences something new, such as a specific airborne particle, your immune system identifies the foreign substance as harmful. The body then produces immunoglobulin E, which are antibodies that attach to certain cells, which release a chemical known as histamine upon contact. This chemical causes inflammation and is the cause behind the allergic symptoms.
Allergy sufferers have a wide range of symptoms. Some folks sneeze constantly, some develop watery eyes or choking and others experience swelling of the face. Following are a few common symptoms of allergies:
· Tingling in mouth
· Stomach ache
· Swelling of the tongue, lips, face or throat
· Swelling where the insect penetrated the skin
· Shortness of breath, cough, wheezing or chest tightness
· Itching or hives (red spots on the abdomen, chest or back)
· Itchy skin
Scientists and researchers have yet to trace a clear etiology of what causes allergies to develop at the adult stage. However, this hasn't prevented them from coming up with theories, one of which is quite compelling!
The Hygiene Hypothesis states that when a person tries to force himself or herself into a hygienic environment, the response to the lack of bacteria causes the allergies. We need a certain amount of exposure to infections and germs so our immune system can build a threshold of antibodies. When we live too carefully, to the point of excessive cleanliness, the body overreacts to the foreign substances.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the real reason behind adult allergies is excessive cleaning. The study looked at more than 3,000 participants without asthma. These participants used different kinds of cleaning sprays in home. After a week, they underwent a medical checkup and it was discovered that 42% of them were showing signs of respiratory changes.
This lends credence to the hygiene hypothesis and tells us that adult allergies can occur. In fact, researchers say people well in their 80s can develop allergies.
*** Physician Dr. Matthew Bogard practices Emergency Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska. During his time training at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine, he was selected to join the Advanced Rural Training Program, a four-year residency program that trains physicians to provide comprehensive full-spectrum medical care.
Matthew Bogard, MD
Physician in Iowa and Nebraska