General Health Thursday July 19, 2012

Too much of a bad thing – The benefits of allergy desensitisation

We’ve all heard about the potential for people to ‘grow’ out of allergies, but other than that there is no way to be completely ‘cured’ of an allergy. For many people with allergies, a lifetime adjustment is required, however research has shown that allergy desensitisation, has been successful. However, as with any allergy-related breakthrough, researchers expressed guarded enthusiasm for the results, as much more research is required before we’ll be able to apply allergy desensitisation techniques in our homes.

According to reports the number of people with allergies has tripled within the last 30 years and it’s predicted that one in two children will have some type of allergy in three years. In spite of this, there are still very few specialist allergy clinics operating within the the UK. However, if allergies are increasing at such an alarming rate, isn’t it worth investing more in managing and identifying allergens? Ideally, there should be more research conducted like the above mentioned egg research to help develop methods to treat allergies and not just avoid them.

If allergies are going to become an increasingly important part of our lives, the future of allergy treatment should hold more than just the use of antihistamines, Epi-pens and avoiding almost anything that remotely resembles an allergen.

There is definitely some merit to the theory of desensitisation. This concept is also something known as immunotherapy, and is currently being conducted by specialist NHS centres. It’s normally only recommended to people who have severe hay fever who have been unresponsive to other treatments. This therapy involves the injection of pollen into the blood stream once every week or two weeks, initially, after which point treatment is condensed into a single anual injection. This requires extremely specialist application and is potentially dangerous, as you are essentially injecting a person with the very thing that is causing them to experience a negative reaction in the first place. Similar methods of desensitisation have been performed successfully on people who suffer from peanut allergies.

It’s understandable that desensitisation is considered a risk, which is why the charity Allergy UK is careful to not denote desensitising practices at home. It’s also important to bear in mind that the research conducted on egg allergies, mentioned earlier on, didn't include anyone with extremely serious allergies and used extremely small doses of egg powder that could not be measured out safely at home.

In general it is thought that pollution is the reason behind the significant increase in allergy numbers, but lack of exposure to allergens is also to blame. There has even been research to suggest that having a dog or cat in the house when you have a baby is a good thing when, in contrast, many new parents feel that hygiene could present a problem when you have a pet. The research confirmed that it’s not natural for children to grow up in a completely sterile environment. People should be exposed at a young age to an environment where their immune system is allowed to 'learn' the most appropriate responses.

It would seem that extensive immunotherapy for most allergies isn't likely to be a reality soon, but the research is looking promising. However, it’s worrying when statistics are showing us that half of our children will be allergic to something in their natural environment. If we are becoming more sensitive to our environment, because we aren’t really living within our environment, it might be time to start living in a more natural way. Out with the copious amounts of cleaning products, constant hand sanitising and playing inside, it's time to get dirty.

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