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Allergies Not Just for Children Anymore

Allergy is much more than just hay fever. It occurs when the body develops an abnormal activation of the immune system - called// IgE - to what would otherwise be harmless substances, such as pollen, animal dander, mold, food, medication or even insect stings. In these people, their immune response overreacts by producing IgE to these substances, causing the illnesses from which they suffer.

Although most often thought of as a child’s disease, allergy can affect people of all ages – from infants to the elderly. There is clearly a family predisposition, which implies a genetic basis. Indeed, the risk for developing an allergic condition is up to 10 times higher in children whose parents are also allergic.

Environmental exposures are important as well. Urban dwellers are more likely to have hay fever and/or asthma than those who live on a farm. This may occur because of the decreased exposure to certain types of environmental substances - called endotoxins - that comes from animal waste found in abundance in rural locations, such as farms with livestock.

Other factors influence the risk for developing hay fever, asthma and other allergic diseases. These include early exposure to table food (during the first six months of life), living in areas of high air pollution (especially ozone and diesel exhaust as seen in urban areas), excessive use of antibiotics early in life and exposure to tobacco smoke (especially for asthma).

The first line of defense is prevention. Keeping a child away from second hand smoke (and not smoking as the child ages), controlling air pollution exposure, limiting table food exposure in early infancy (4-6 months of age) and careful use of antibiotics for what may be viral colds instead of bacterial infections may all reduce the risk for developing allergic diseases.

If an individual develops an allergic disease, what can be done? Avoidance is the primary principle. This is particularly i
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