people think of April as the beginning of spring.
For Allergy sufferers April
truly is the cruelest month for allergy sufferers,
bringing nasal-assaulting tree pollen along with all
those lovely spring flowers.
If you live in a pollen hot spot like Atlanta, Austin,
Hartford, Conn., it may seem like more people than ever
are sniffling, sneezing, and suffering because of spring
allergies. Ever hear someone say the pollen is killing
Now research confirms
that people have
become more sensitive to environmental allergic assaults
over the last 25 years. By using blood samples
provided over time by British men, a study showed that
allergies to pollen, pet dander, and other common
allergy triggers have increased by nearly 5% per decade
since the mid-1970s.
British researcher on the
study says he doesn't know why. "There seems to be
something that is making people more sensitive to these
allergens," epidemiologist Malcolm Law, MD, told Web MD.
"It is probably something to do with Western lifestyle,
but what it is we don't know."
Law and colleagues
analyzed blood samples from 513 middle-aged men
attending a medical center in London between 1996 and
1998. They then matched the blood to stored samples
taken from 513 men between 1981 and 1982 and to 513
samples taken between 1975 and 1976. All the samples were
tested for sensitivity to 11 allergy triggers including
grass and tree pollens, household dust mites, and pet
dander. Positive samples were retested for specific
immune-allergy responses to inhaled grass and tree
pollen, and cat dander.
The researchers reported
"highly significant increases" over time in the
proportion of men testing positive for the allergy
triggers, with specific increases in antibodies to the
three inhaled allergens.
The average rate of
increase was equivalent to an additional 4.5% of men
developing allergies each decade. There was also no
evidence that allergic reactions declined as the men
grew older, as has been reported in other studies.
Allergy and asthma
specialist Pramod Kelkar, MD, tells WebMD that the
strength of the study is its length. "This study spanned
several decades, and we haven't seen that before," he
The researchers conclude
that the increase in susceptibility is not likely to be
due to increased environmental exposures or to a decline
in childhood infections in recent decades -- two popular
theories for why allergic diseases are on the rise.
"We just don't have the
answers," Law says.
Law, M. British Medical Journal, April 15
online edition. Malcolm Law, MD, Center for
Environmental and Preventive Medicine, Wolfson Institute
of Preventive Medicine, The London School of Medicine
and Dentistry. Pramod S. Kelkar, MD, consultant in
allergy and asthma care, Maple Grove, Minn.; spokesman,
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
Wishing you the best of health
The Allergy Store+