4 Myths About Allergies You Thought Were True

4 Myths About Allergies You Thought Were True

I can’t believe it isn’t true. Hayfever by Shutterstock

Allergies are on the rise across the developed world and hay fever and eczema have trebled in the last 30 years. Yet allergies are an area of much confusion and concern. Although one study found 38% of people think they have a food allergy, in fact only 1-5% do, and allergists commonly report spending most of their consultations refuting firmly held beliefs that have no scientific foundation.

Theories about allergy – some from medical research and some from lifestyle “gurus” – have led to conflicting information, making it hard to know what to believe. Because of this, Sense About Science worked with me and a number of allergists, immunologists, respiratory scientists and pharmacists to produce Making Sense of Allergies, a guide tackling the many myths and misconceptions about allergies. One common myth – something that I work on – is the link between allergies and exposure to microbes.

So here is a hygiene and allergy reality fact check:

1. Do fewer childhood infections mean more allergies?

No. Although a link between allergies and microbes is largely accepted, the idea that more infections during childhood reduces the chance of developing allergies is now discounted. This idea came from the hygiene hypothesis, proposed in 1989, which theorised that the 20th century’s increase in allergies was due to lower rates of infection in early childhood. This hypothesis was based on observations that larger family size protected against hay fever, while smaller families were thought to provide insufficient infection exposure because of less person-to-person infection.

Exposure to a normal range of microbes during the first months after birth is critical to developing the immune system, but there is no evidence that “regular” infections are important to boost general infection immunity or prevent allergies.

2. Are allergies up because of modern obsessions with cleanliness?

No. Our microbiomes, the population of microbes that live in and on our bodies, have altered from previous generations. This is not because of cleanliness, but because we interact with less diverse microbial environments than those of our largely rural ancestors. The idea that excessive cleaning has created “sterile” homes is implausible: microbes are rapidly replaced by organisms shed from us, our pets, raw foods and dust


 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

4 Myths About Allergies You Thought Were True

Not such a bad thing. Washing by Shutterstock

This understanding has come from the “old friends” mechanism, a refinement to the hygiene hypothesis that offers a more plausible explanation for the link between microbial exposure and allergies. It proposes that exposure to the diverse range of largely non-harmful microbes or parasites that inhabit our world are important for building a diverse microbiome that is vital for sustaining a well regulated immune system that doesn’t overreact to allergens like pollen. These “old friends” have co-evolved with humans over millions of years. By contrast most infectious diseases only emerged over the last 10,000 years as we came to live in urban communities.

Old friend microbes are still there, but we have lost contact with them due to lifestyle and public health changes over the past two centuries. Improved water quality, sanitation and urban cleanliness have massively reduced infectious disease, but inadvertently deprived us of exposure to these microbes. Changes in microbial content of food, less breastfeeding, more caesarean sections, urban rather than rural living and increased antibiotic use have also reduced early life old friends interaction.

3. Will relaxing hygiene reverse the trend in allergies?

No. We now know that relaxing hygiene will not reunite us with our old friends, but carries the risk of increased exposure to other microbes that can cause old and new diseases. Because it was originally called the “hygiene” hypothesis, and because the terms hygiene and cleanliness are used interchangeably, people often assume that “being less clean” implies being less particular about hygiene.

At the same time that allergies have increased, the threats of global pandemics and antibiotic resistance have increased, and hygiene is key to containing these threats. Protecting against infection is not about how clean our homes look or how often we shower, it’s what we do to stop germs spreading.

By using “targeted” hygiene practices such as hand washing, food safety and toilet hygiene, while encouraging everyday interactions with our microbial world we maximise protection against infection, while maintaining exposure to old friends.

4. Are synthetic chemicals linked to rising allergies?

No. Excessive use of cleaning and personal care products and antibacterials is sometimes said to be linked to allergies because it deprives us of microbial exposure. Antibacterial products are perceived to exacerbate this. However, because evidence suggests that general day-to-day home cleaning has no impact on microbial levels, it is unlikely to impact on our human microbiome. By contrast targeted disinfectant use, for example while preparing food, can reduce infection risks.

4 Myths About Allergies You Thought Were True

Counting the number. Test by Shutterstock

Many people believe that “man-made” chemicals are more likely to cause allergic reactions, leading to many synthetic substances in products being replaced by “natural alternatives”. However, the most common allergic reactions are to naturally occurring allergens, in foods such as eggs, milk and nuts, in common garden plants such as primroses and chrysanthemums, and things in the environment such as pollen, dust mites and pet dander. Some natural replacements for synthetic substances could actually increase the risk of allergic reactions.The Conversation

About The Author

Sally Bloomfield, Honorary Professor, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine


Recommended Books: Health

Fresh Fruit CleanseFresh Fruit Cleanse: Detox, Lose Weight and Restore Your Health with Nature's Most Delicious Foods [Paperback] by Leanne Hall.
Lose weight and feel vibrantly healthy while clearing your body of toxins. Fresh Fruit Cleanse offers everything you need for an easy and powerful detox, including day-by-day programs, mouth-watering recipes, and advice for transitioning off the cleanse.
Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.

Thrive FoodsThrive Foods: 200 Plant-Based Recipes for Peak Health [Paperback] by Brendan Brazier.
Building upon the stress-reducing, health-boosting nutritional philosophy introduced in his acclaimed vegan nutrition guide Thrive, professional Ironman triathlete Brendan Brazier now turns his attention to your dinner plate (breakfast bowl and lunch tray too).
Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.

Death by Medicine by Gary NullDeath by Medicine by Gary Null, Martin Feldman, Debora Rasio and Carolyn Dean
The medical environment has become a labyrinth of interlocking corporate, hospital, and governmental boards of directors, infiltrated by the drug companies. The most toxic substances are often approved first, while milder and more natural alternatives are ignored for financial reasons. It's death by medicine.
Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.


This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

 

You May Also Like

AVAILABLE LANGUAGES

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeeliwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptroruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

Marie T. Russell's Daily Inspiration

INNERSELF VOICES

full moon over a hot air balloon
Fear Unceasing or Life Abundant? Blue Moon Cycle in Aquarius
by Sarah Varcas
The period beginning with this first full moon (24 July 2021) and ending with the blue moon (22…
Horoscope Week: July 19 - 25, 2021
Horoscope Current Week: July 19 - 25, 2021
by Pam Younghans
This weekly astrological journal is based on planetary influences, and offers perspectives and…
photo of stinging nettle flowers
Have You Talked to the Weeds in Your Garden Lately?
by Fay Johnstone
As an herbalist I have a very different view of weeds than the average gardener who can’t abide…
The Four Communication Rules and Violations, with an Emphasis on Listening
The Four Communication Rules and Violations, with an Emphasis on Listening
by Jude Bijou
I've found all good communication boils down to just four simple rules. Whether it's with our…
picture of a man writing on sheets of paper
Channeling As A Healing Tool and Its Impact On Grief
by Matthew McKay, PhD.
When my boy died, I had no belief that the dead could talk to us. At best, they seemed gone in…
Digital Distraction and Depression: The 21st Century Scourges
Digital Distraction and Depression: The 21st Century Scourges
by Amit Goswami, Ph.D.
We now have ever-expanding ways to distract and consume attention through the new digital opiate of…
holding up a mask of a man's face
Is There a Right Way of Interpreting Dreams?
by Serge Kahili King
When you give others the authority to interpret your dreams, you are buying in to their beliefs,…
Is the Emotion of Fear Strongly Related to Cancer?
Are Fear and Cancer Strongly Related?
by Tjitze de Jong
The emotional charge of fear is a huge one. It is the emotion I come across more than any other in…

MOST READ

A line of police with riot shields on the street cast shadows onto the asphalt
What do police actions do to community health?
by Jake Ellison-U. Washington
A new conceptual model depicts the complex relationship between policing and population health.
Being Cinderella: Believing in the Chance for Change
Being Cinderella: Believing in the Chance for Change
by Wendy Paris
When the fairy godmother appeared, Cinderella had the courage to seize an opportunity to change.…
Is the Emotion of Fear Strongly Related to Cancer?
Are Fear and Cancer Strongly Related?
by Tjitze de Jong
The emotional charge of fear is a huge one. It is the emotion I come across more than any other in…
Is the Emotion of Fear Strongly Related to Cancer?
Are Fear and Cancer Strongly Related? (Video)
by Tjitze de Jong
The emotional charge of fear is a huge one. It is the emotion I come across more than any other in…
photo of stinging nettle flowers
Have You Talked to the Weeds in Your Garden Lately?
by Fay Johnstone
As an herbalist I have a very different view of weeds than the average gardener who can’t abide…
Are You A Creator or A Victim?: As We Think, So Shall We Feel
Are You A Creator or A Victim?: As We Think, So Shall We Feel
by Dr. Paula Sunray
We can't be feeling what we are feeling unless we are "thinking" it. First we have to think and…
Not Just Ordinary Help: Another Miracle on the Road
Not Just Ordinary Help: Another Miracle on the Road (Video)
by Joyce Vissell
Have you ever really needed help and it seemed like no one cared? Well, we just had that experience…
Writing letters by hand is the best way to learn to read
Writing letters by hand is the best way to learn to read
by Jill Rosen, Johns Hopkins University
Handwriting helps people learn reading skills surprisingly faster and significantly better than…

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.