“I’m allergic to water”
It seems the prevalence of allergies grows daily, including some genuinely bizarre cases. Aquagenic urticaria is in fact a legitimate allergy in response to water, resulting in a painful skin reaction.
What is fuelling this allergy growth, and is there anything we can do to quell it?
There are different schools of thought when it comes to this topic. Firstly, there is what is known as the ‘Hygiene Hypothesis’.
This theory is centred on the belief that the highly sterile environment of developed nations impacts the normal development of the body’s immune system. The excessive cleanliness is said to greatly reduce the variety of bacteria and germs which we are exposed to. This lack of exposure means the body has difficulty responding to a given stimulus should it be confronted with it in the future.
This holds true when comparing statistics from developing nations to developed, with much higher allergy rates in the latter. However…
Another belief is that an increased awareness and ability to recognise allergies is responsible for the spike. Medicinal advancements in allergy diagnosis may have contributed to the statistical rise in people with allergies. Furthermore, with the media always searching for ‘shocking’ headlines, the greater coverage of these hypersensitivity disorders has resulted in it being thrust into the public eye to ensure good ratings.
With media outlets having a more prominent role in developed nations, this could account for the discrepancy between developed and developing countries.
The impact of global warming has been bandied around as another contributor. The warmer temperatures are leading to increased pollen levels as well as longer allergy seasons due to the generally milder winters.
So is there a solution?
Unfortunately, this case is unresolved.
It appears that exposure at an early age to allergy-causing substances plays a big role. The immune system is confronted with a potential allergy, it recognises it is not dangerous and thus the body does not develop a hypersensitivity. This means, don’t be overly protective or concerned when Little Jimmy is playing in the mud and munching on a few snails. At the same time, feeding him raw chicken probably isn’t the way to go either!
Another important consideration is consulting an expert. They often will provide you with the best pathway to diagnosing if you do in fact have an allergy, and consequently managing it.
“I used to wake up at 4 A.M. and start sneezing, sometimes for five hours. I tried to find out what sort of allergy I had but finally came to the conclusion that it must be an allergy to consciousness.”
By Andrew Cammarano