Sunday, June 24, 2012


Allergies can be caused by food as well the environment one lives in and in many cases it can be life threatening. Children are generally the victims of allergy which increases in severity as they grow. There are remedies which are available to deal with allergic reactions but ideally keeping away from situation that poses risk of allergy can be best solution. While in the case of food, it is somewhat easier to stay away from those containing known allergens, which are about 8 in number how can any one anticipate environmental hazards that also may trigger allergy? If a recent study on allergy is any indication, urban environment is more dangerous when it comes to food allergies though common sense tells that environmental induced allergic reactions should be more serious in such places. This is understandable considering the multitude of chemicals present in urban surroundings due to high population density and and all associated human activities.  For example emissions from heavy vehicular traffic that is a feature of urban living contain many chemicals in minute quantities that can be the cause of allergy. It is a logical finding that those living in rural areas where the environment is relatively cleaner the incidence of allergy is significantly less. But the report that urban children are more vulnerable to food allergy is indeed revealing. According to the authors of the study the reason for this could be the presence diverse microorganisms in rural environment o which children there are exposed, may be responsible to make them sturdy and resistant to allergy triggering. Here is a gist of the study that has brought to surface this interesting information.

"Study results showed that 9.8 percent of children in urban areas have food allergies as compared to 6.2 percent in rural communities. The states with the highest prevalence of food allergies in children were Nevada, Florida, Georgia, Alaska, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia. "We have found for the first time that population density has an impact" Gupta told the Chicago Tribune. "The big question now is what in the environment is the trigger?" Some researchers believe that the many pollutants found in urban areas may trigger the development of allergies while exposure early in life to bacteria common to rural areas may protect against hypersensitivity to allergens. Still, finding the answer to the "trigger" question is no short order and food allergies are a growing health problem. According to 2011 research by Gupta, an estimated 5.9 million children under the age of 18 now have a potentially life-threatening food allergy. Severe allergic reactions that can lead to death include a drop in blood pressure, trouble breathing and swelling of the throat. And despite the geographic disparity between occurrences of food allergies, severe food allergy reactions are not confined to one area. The study showed food allergies are equally severe in regardless of where a child lives. Nearly 40 percent of all the children in the study had a severe or life-threatening reaction."This is really important to note," Gupta told Food Safety News. "There may be less food allergies in rural areas, but if you do have a food allergy, you still have an equal chance of having a severe, potentially life-threatening reaction. Gupta advises parents to always report a child's allergic food reaction to his or her doctor so the child can be prescribed medication to prevent a life-threatening situation".

The role of microbes in making children less sensitive to allergens, as suggested by the scientists in the above study is really significant and many recent studies have brought out the beneficial effects of human microbiome in health that offer logical explanation for this perception. Another variable factor is the exposure of children to restaurant foods and processed products containing many chemical additives and whether this also plays a part is not known. Food allergy is a manifestation of reaction to certain specific proteins present in the food and there is no permanent remedy presently available. Also to be noted is the fact food allergy has a strong genetic factor as children borne to families having a history of allergy are more likely to inherit the same. On the other hand if urban environment is the major culprit for increasing incidences of allergy in urban areas and consequent development asthma and other respiratory ailments, what practical methods can be envisaged to ameliorate the situation? In spite of all claims that environment safety agencies are monitoring the quality of air in major urban settlements, it is doubtful whether the standards and enforcement practices are adequate to meet the emerging challenges. The hypothesis that exposure to microbes during early child hood may lessen the chances of food allergy is a good lead worth pursuing to reach a logical conclusion on this issue. In many cases gut microbes belonging to different species help in digestion of proteins significantly leaving very little peptide residues that can be absorbed to elicit allergic reaction. The well organized multi institutional research projects initiated in 2007 by National Institute of Health in the US on human microbiome can be expected to bring out lot of information on the role of microorganism in food allergy reactions.


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