Causes of Allergies – Family and Lifestyle Factors
Allergic problems tend to run in families, and the likelihood of a child developing an allergy is increased if one or both parents suffer from this problem. If both parents are allergic, the risk is 75 percent; if one parent is allergic, the risk is 50 percent. On average, between 10 and 20 percent of the population is allergic, although this is higher in certain age groups due to the increasing development of allergic problems in children. There is research evidence suggesting that the types of allergic disease the parents suffer from may influence the types of allergy their children develop. This is due to the inherited nature of the response to allergens and the body’s response to the allergic reaction.
Early childhood infection – Causes of Allergies
The immune system is still developing in early life and the stimulation of the immune system at this time by infections, such as respiratory infections with viruses or bacteria, or even gastrointestinal infections, may help to direct the immune memory away from responding to environmental allergens and may, as a result, limit or even prevent the development of allergies.
Mild infections, such as those that are commonly experienced in childhood, may not always be sufficient to achieve this, but research is being conducted to identify if specific vaccinations to boost the immune response away from allergy and toward fighting infection may provide a preventative approach for the future.
Gender differences – Causes of Allergies
Allergic problems are more common in boys than girls in childhood. Studies of children aged 13 shows an increased likelihood of a heightened sensitivity to house-dust mite or cat allergen in boys compared with girls. This gender difference is less marked among adults, however since males tend to “outgrow” their allergy.
Benefits of exercise – Causes of Allergies
Some recent studies indicate that lack of exercise increases the likelihood of developing asthma. Whether this is due to the beneficial effects of exercise per se, or whether lack of exercise is an indicator of more time spent inside and greater exposure to household allergens is not clear There does, however appear to be advantages from exercise and the greater lung expansion associated with it.
Lifestyle factors – Causes of Allergies
As well as there being geographical variations in the exposure to allergens, there are also regional and cultural differences in the likelihood of allergic diseases developing. For example, there is a lower incidence of allergic diseases in communities where a lot of natural and fresh foods are eaten, compared with communities, often more affluent ones that are more reliant on processed foods. This may have something to do with the high level of anti-oxidants in natural, fresh food, including vegetables and fruit, and the high levels of preservatives and additives that are present in pre-prepared foods.
There is no doubt that the incidence of allergy is an increasing problem in societies that have an affluent lifestyle. Studies conducted in Africa on individuals from the same tribes (and, therefore, the same genetic backgrounds) identify higher incidences of asthma in urban as opposed to rural environments and in higher rather than lower social classes in the urban environment. Other research studies have shown that when immigrants move from a country with a basic standard of living to a more affluent society, they become more prone to asthma.
Factors associated with affluence that lead to the increase in asthma and in allergy are being studied, but the focus is on diet and lifestyle.
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