What Causes Allergies and Asthma in the U.S.?
Did you know that American's spend an estimated $250 million annually on air purifiers for their home? More than one in five Americans have allergies. On average, 55% of Americans test positive for some kind of allergy. Moreover, allergies rank 5th as a leading cause of chronic disease in the US.
Estimated annual cost of allergies to the US health care system and businesses is $7.9 billion. About 4 million workdays are lost each year because of hay fever.
One of three people has chronic allergy symptoms like a runny nose, congestion, and cough - without actually having allergic rhinitis. These numbers are incredibly high and clearly, the effects are significant.
Medical studies predict that children will have an even higher allergy risk in the future. CNN reports that 34% of American children have allergic diseases. Exposure to dust mites in the first year of a child's life is associated with a later development of asthma, too.
Mite and cockroach antigens are quite common and sensitization increases the asthma morbidity rate. Allergies trigger asthma attacks in 60-90% of children and 50% of adults. Most of these allergy symptoms are aeroallergen induced.
A major contributing factor is climate change. Increasing temperature, carbon dioxide, and precipitation tend to amplify the spread of weedy plants, which in turn intensify allergy and asthma symptoms. Warmer temperatures and precipitation are causing some plants to grow faster, bloom earlier, and therefore produce more pollen. It's believed that climate change is causing allergy season to start earlier and last longer. Moreover, the potency of pollen in the air is increasing.
Studies also show that allergies are more prevalent in American-born children versus foreign-born children. This is due to the relatively sterile US environment. While American-born children are prone to allergies, foreign-born children are less sensitive because of their early-life exposure to toxins.
Children acclimate to wherever they are and pick up whatever is going on around them. This may not be a life-long benefit, however, foreign-born children benefit from an unsterile environment.
Another contributing factor is obesity. It has been shown that overweight children have a tendency to suffer more allergies than children of a healthy weight.
Data from the Center for Disease Control indicate that there is a link between allergies and obesity. 4,000 children between the ages of 2 and 19 were studied and they discovered that immunoglobulin E or IgE levels were higher in obese children. They conclude that 26% of obese children were more likely to suffer from allergies.
They also discovered that 30% of adult onset asthma triggered by allergies correlate with rising obesity rates. Not only are asthma and allergies connected to obesity, but obesity exacerbates the allergy condition. How does this happen?
Obesity results in immunological changes and a decreased tolerance to antigens. An increase in body weight leads to the circulation of IL6, Leptin and TNFalpha, which then down-regulates the activity of T-lymphocytes or Tregs. These changes affect the immune system and its ability to tolerate antigens.
What Do Air Purifiers Do and How Does Diet and Exercise Help?
One of the most important functions of an air purifier is its ability to remove pollutants such as cigarette smoke, dust, pollen, mold, pet dander, and odors from the air.
There are several types of air purifiers and each works a bit differently. Ionizers release small levels of ozone, so they are quite controversial as to whether or not they are good for the environment, but HEPA air purifiers certainly are.
Filters in these air purifiers include: the HEPA filter, the combination HEPA and carbon pre-filter, the UV light, T1O2 filter, and VOC or activated carbon filter.
1. HEPA filters: A HEPA filter traps particles as they move through the filtering system. A HEPA filter removes pet allergens from 0.3-100 microns, dust and dust mite allergens from 10-40 microns, pollen 10-100 microns, plant spores from 10-70 microns, airborne fungi spores from 0.5-5 microns, mold spores from 2-20 microns, and tobacco smoke from 0.003-0.04 microns.
A HEPA filter doesn't remove odors, chemicals, or gases. It does remove 99.97% of airborne particles. It does work with other filters as described below to provide the best possible results. Some HEPA filters are treated with antimicrobial agents to control the growth of bacteria, viruses, and mold.
2. Carbon pre-filter: This filter maximizes the effectiveness of the HEPA filter. It captures large particles like pet dander, dust, and odors. Without a pre-filter, the HEPA filter would get clogged and not last as long as it could.
3. UV light: UV filtration is a disinfection method that kills microorganisms. It's primarily used to kill pathogens, viruses, and molds that are airborne or growing on surfaces.
4. TiO2 filter: TiO2 filters work with the UV light to target and render bacteria and other contaminants harmless. Together, these filters attach themselves to harmful airborne compounds and burn off offending pollutants by turning them into nothing more than harmless carbon dioxide and water molecules.
5. VOC filter: A VOC filter or activated carbon and charcoal filter combats volatile organic compounds or harmful VOCs. These carbon-based airborne and sometimes odorous chemicals commonly found throughout the house in items like paint, furniture, and carpeting. The VOC filter targets and removes these particles from the air.
Combined, these filters alleviate most indoor allergy and asthma triggers. Once you improve your indoor air quality or IAQ, get the focus off your environment and onto yourself.
It's All About You
According to Dr. Oz food allergies are related to weight gain. Foods with dairy can cause unhealthy bacteria to overgrow and produce toxins that cause systemic inflammation, which swells the intestines and prevents normal digestion, leading up to 30 lbs. of weight gain in a year. This is a significant amount of weight gain because of a single food allergy.
Did you know that breastfeeding your babies can help prevent allergic rhinitis in your children? Children are at a high risk for developing allergies if the disease already affects one or both parents.
Medical News Today suggests feeding your children breast milk for the first 4-6 months to help prevent cow's milk allergy, eczema or other skin allergies, too. If your baby cannot take breast milk then try a hypoallergenic formula, it is also known to offer protection until about four years of age.
Other foods to consider eating are:
- Fish has omega 3 fatty acids lower the risk of developing allergies and reduces symptoms
- Apples have vitamin C and the antioxidant quercetin can help improve lung function and protect against allergies and asthma overall
- Red grapes contain resveratrol, which has anti-inflammatory properties
- Warm liquids like tea or chicken soup keep you hydrated and thin mucous
Foods to avoid are:
- Corn, wheat, and rice are all grasses and should be avoided if you have a grass allergy
- Celery, peaches, tomatoes, and melons might cause allergies in people allergic to grass, too
- Bananas, cucumbers, melons, and zucchini can trigger allergies in people allergic to ragweed
- Spicy foods typically contain capsaicin, a red pepper that gives dishes a spicy kick and can trigger allergies
- Alcohol causes blood vessels to dilate and can trigger nasal allergy symptoms. Because of the fermenting process, there is natural occurring histamine in alcohol that can cause allergy symptoms even after drinking
First, seek your doctor's approval before starting an exercise program. That being said, studies show that exercise can calm inflammation of the nasal passages, relieve nasal stuffiness, and help with congestion.
Get a gym membership and exercise indoors as much as possible. Exercise heats up the body the same way a steam room or hot shower does; it loosens mucous and gets the fluids flowing.
Second, don't overdo physical exercise, but remember the link between obesity and allergies. The best way to prevent weight gain is to sweat it off. Focus on exercise that promotes proper breathing like Yoga and Pilates, activities that strengthen heart and lungs like resistance training, and warming up.