APR 13, 2016 1:29 PM PDT

Seasonal Allergies: Can Too Much Hygiene Be To Blame?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

As spring and summer approaches, allergy sufferers are bemoaning the ever-increasing pollen count. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, an estimated 30 percent of adults and nearly 40 percent of children have at least one allergy, including seasonal allergies. And the trend is on the rise.

There are many theories about why peoples' immune systems run haywire when exposed to otherwise harmless substances like pollen. One pervasive idea is known as the Hygiene Hypothesis, which suggests that sterile-like environments and limited exposure to bacteria and allergens could cause the immune system to be overly sensitive. This idea could explain, in part, why the prevalence of allergies is increasing worldwide in developed countries.

Moreover, the theory suggests exposure may be the key in acclimating the immune system so that they are less likely to attack when exposed to pollen, food, or other allergens. Indeed, scientists recently revised their recommendation, encouraging people to eat peanut butter earlier in order to help nut allergies in adulthood. Perhaps then seasonal allergies could also be helped with early exposure to pollen too? Watch the video to find out.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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