Why are allergies becoming common?
Category : Health Tips
ALLERGIES, and related conditions such as asthma, are becoming more common
according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). The numbers tell the story:
*More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergic diseases each year.
* As the 6th leading cause of chronic disease in the United States, allergies cost the health care system $18 billion annually.
* The prevalence of allergic rhinitis (a condition due to allergy that mimics a chronic cold, often referred to as hay fever) has increased substantially over the past 15 years.
* About 16.7 million visits to health care providers are due to allergic rhinitis.
Risk from Pollutants: Causes for the increase in allergies are traced to many environmental factors, both indoors and outdoors. Smog and tobacco smoke can easily damage the fragile tissues of the lungs, increasing the risk of developing allergies, asthma, chronic bronchitis, or lung cancer. Those who already have allergies or asthma are more susceptible to the harmful effects.
Outside air pollution: You’ll find air pollution knows no boundaries. In the city, emissions from cars and buses mix with industrial chemicals and the dust from construction. In the country, smoke from crop and wood burning can be added to the dust created by tractors plowing fields and by trucks driving on unpaved roads.
In 1991, an estimated 140 million Americans lived in areas where levels of ozone far exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recommended levels. Increased respiratory problems have been found among people living in affected regions. Recommended levels of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide are also being exceeded and cause additional concern.
Inside air pollution: In the last decade it has been shown that many pollutants can be found indoors at rates two to five times higher and in some cases 100 times higher than outdoors. Today, there are more complex chemical compounds (polymers) in our natural environment than before and much less indoor air exchange in our highly insulated homes and buildings. Most of us spend up to 90 percent of our time indoors, increasing our exposure to these pollutants.
In your home: The EPA ranks indoor air pollution as one of the top environmental health risks. Wood burning stoves and tobacco smoke are the primary indoor pollutants linked to the development and aggravation of respiratory conditions such as allergic rhinitis, asthma. chronic bronchitis and lung cancer. There are many other contributing factors such as poor ventilation and wall—to—wall carpeting.
Wood burning stoves: There has been an increased use of wood as a heating fuel, resulting in more than 11 million wood burning commonly is done in cold, oxygen poor conditions, increased emissions of carbon monoxide and particulate matter can fill the surrounding air. Emissions of toxins such as formaldehyde also expand if a stove is poorly ventilated. Formaldehyde, which is also found in tobacco smoke and furniture, has been shown to be a respiratory irritant.
Tobacco smoke: Tobacco smoke contains trace amounts of poisonous compounds such as formaldehyde, arsenic, DDT and cyanide; just to name a few of the 4,000 chemicals present when you puff on a cigarette, cigar or pipe.
Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is the combination of the smoke exhaled by a smoker and the smoke from a burning cigarette, cigar or pipe. The EPA has found that this second hand smoke is an import ant factor in respiratory illness and the cause of 3000 U.S. deaths a year from lung cancer.
Studies have shown that a clear connection exists between ETS and asthma in children, as well as magnified asthma symptoms in teenagers. Second hand smoke is also linked to respiratory infections in babies that lead to thousands of hospitalizations each year.
Carpets: A recent study in Baltimore schools suggests that the presence of carpets or rugs creates a significantly higher allergen count, possibly leading to asthma. Symptoms or sensitization of the lungs to allergens. Dust, dust mite, mouse, cat, Jog, and cockroach allergens are all trapped by carpets along with whatever we track in on our shoes. Today’s thicker carpets trap even more of these allergens. Other studies have shown that pesticides often enter the home on the soles of our shoes.
How Do You Protect Yourself? Outside – Pollen Avoidance.
Avoidance is the best line of defense whenever possible. If you suffer from hay fever look for the pollen count in your local newspaper, online, or on the radio and television. If the pollen count is high:
- Stay indoors as much as possible,
- Keep doors and windows closed in your car
- Delay vigorous outdoor activities.
Medications: There are several medications available, from antihistamines and decongestants to corticosteroid nasal sprays to help reduce or alleviate your symptoms.
Treatments: If your symptoms are chronic and you cannot achieve relief, immunotherapy (allergy shots) might prove helpful. The allergy shots gradually increase your tolerance to the specific pollen or allergen that triggers your allergic reaction, eventually minimizing or in some cases even eliminating your symptoms.
Outside – Pollution: The EPA checks and reports on air quality throughout the U.S. You can find a scale of air quality called the Au Quality Index (AQI) in the weather section of local newspapers, on the radio and television or on the web.
The scale uses a range from 0 to 500. Air quality is considered unhealthy when the AQI exceeds 100. When pollution levels are high:
- Stay indoors as much as possible.
- Limit outdoor activities to early morning or until after sunset since sunshine drives up ozone levels.
- Don’t exercise or exert yourself outdoors because the faster you breathe the more pollution you’ll inhale into your lungs.
Inside – Common allergens: Keep doors and windows closed home and in your car to avoid pollen.
- Ask a contractor about their grade filters if you have a forced air furnace or air conditioned. Many of the newer filters can remove more than 95 percent of dust and pollutants. Similar results can be obtained from some types of portable air cleaners. While filters remove contaminants such as pollen, tobacco smoke and animal dander they are not remove radon, carbon monoxide and some aerosols.
- Change filters regularly.
- If your hay fever is perennial dust and mold control measurements can be very helpful in reduction your symptoms.
- If you have pets you should consider finding them another home.
- Remove carpeting wherever possible. Mop floors with a damaged cloth to reduce redistributing air-born dust into the room.
- Improve ventilation. You can remove some contaminants by installation bathroom and kitchen fans.
- Activities or hobbies that involves painting, paint stripping, sanding welding, or soldering should be performed outdoors as much as possible. If indoors is the only option, be sure to create good ventilation by opening window and using fans.
- Activities or hobbies that involves painting, paint stripping, standing welding, or soldering should be performed outdoors as much as possible. If indoors is the only option, be sure to create good ventilation by opening windows and using fans.
Inside – Pollutants: Wood burning stoves
If you cannot change from wood burning stoves to other forms of heating in the near future:
- Choose properly sized wood stoves that are certified to meet EPA emission standards.
- Be sure that all doors on wood stoves fit tightly.
- Repair any leaks promptly.
- Make sure that there is plenty of fresh air circulating in your home.
- Make sure the ventilation in the area is good at all times.