Early Introduction To Allergens Can Limit or Eliminate Allergic Development
Allergy season. Ugh. It is such a dreaded time of year for so many people. The world is suddenly encumbered by the overwhelming sounds of sniffles, blown noses, wheezing, and potentially worse. While there are medicines and ways to limit exposure or reduce risks, wouldn't it be great to find a cure, a way to make symptoms of allergens less bothersome?
While a legitimate cure is still not a reality, researchers are finding ways to minimize the likelihood of developing allergies through allergen introduction systems. Theoretically, by slowly introducing a maturing system to low levels of an allergen, the individual can develop a tolerance for the substance, resulting in minimal to no allergic reaction later in life.
Research surrounding allergen introduction systems primarily revolves around infants and children, and the findings are mainly focused on the reduction of food allergens. One particular study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that children with a high risk of developing a peanut allergy benefitted from early and monitored introduction to the nut in early development.
While the fear of anaphylaxis and the risk of fatality made people hesitant to expose children to peanuts, research findings suggested the avoidance of the food was making more people allergic. Between 1997 and 2010, when extreme caution was taken with food introductions, the percentage of children with a peanut allergy rose from 0.4% to 1.4%, suggesting the avoidance of peanuts could be perpetuating allergy development, although no direct correlation was ever found.
Building Tolerances Results in Reaction Reduction
In discussing food allergies, there is evidence to suggest slow introduction helps individuals build tolerances. The difference between someone who is allergic or not is simply which has a tolerance for the substance.
The LEAP study or Learning Early About Peanut study hypothesized peanut allergies could be prevented through introduction during infancy. The study consisted of 640 children under the age of one and over the age of four months. The findings showed those children with early exposure were more likely to develop a tolerance for the food than those with no exposure.
Owning a Pet Might Prevent Allergies and Illnesses
Beyond food allergies, many people suffer from environmental sensitivities. Some research suggests animals, specifically dogs and cats, can help children and young adults develop tolerances to specific allergens, and not all produced by animals.
Some studies have shown a link between childhood interactions with pets and a reduced likelihood of developing hay fever, asthma, or eczema. The idea, like with peanuts, is early exposure to allergens helps the body develop a tolerance, resulting in less susceptibility to symptoms and illness.
Take Care and Be Safe
Most allergen introduction systems involve children and infants. As their systems are still developing, it is crucial to take care during the introduction process. You should never try introducing new foods or allergens to your child or yourself without medical supervision. While some allergic reactions are minor, others can be life-threatening. Always talk to your doctor before doing anything that could yourself or your loved one at risk.
It is possible you can develop tolerances even later in life, but you should speak with your physician before trying it on your own. Allergen introductions have been proven with great success in children and infants, but more research is needed for older individuals.