Why Do We Have Allergies?

Spring is in the air.

Sadly for many of us, this means runny noses, itchy eyes, and sneezing. We’re more likely to reach for a box of tissues than stop and smell the roses. Did you know that over 50 million Americans suffer from allergies? Allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the United States and the most common with children.

Americans spend $18 billion annually on allergy related costs.

If our bodies are so smart, why do we even have these annoying allergies? The answer might surprise you. Historically, our immune system worked to keep us alive, and keep us out of danger. So itchy eyes, runny nose and sneezing were a sign of a dangerous area, possibly of toxins in the air. Humans would avoid places that made them sick for obvious reasons. Now that seems a bit dated, but our bodies still work to expel those foreign bodies. Most of the time our immune system is reacting to foreign DNA. Have you even been in a musty basement that had mold? You probably noticed those annoying symptoms. This is a prime example of your body attempting to warn you of a dangerous situation.

True or False: Our body treats bacteria/viruses the same as allergies.  True. The key difference between allergies and infection is fever. Fever isn’t typically present with allergies. One prevalent theory on why our bodies do this is based on the size of the foreign DNA. Pollen is actually quite large compared to our white blood cells, therefore we don’t try to kill it but rather eject it from our bodies with watery eyes, runny nose, and sneezing. Viruses and bacteria are smaller, and our body attempts to kill them – this is when you notice a fever.

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Do you think chiropractic care increases or decreases the immune response? This is actually a trick question, because, depending on the person, it can either increase or decrease the immune system. Chiropractic care moves your body closer to having a normal immune response. As an example, people with asthma have an overactive immune system, so the purpose would be to help normalize nerve function between the lungs and the brain.

If you had to guess one household appliance that is present in households where studies have found an increased number of children with allergies, what would it be? Would you be surprised if I told you it was a dishwasher? I know, this is an appliance that most of us have, or grew up with! The theory is that our dishwashers are actually getting our dishes too clean. Kids aren’t building up the immunity to common household bacteria, so their immune system overreacts to them all. The solution would appear to be that kids should hand wash the dishes. Sounds fair enough to us!

There are many other common activities that we do that might be affecting our allergies.

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Chlorine in swimming pools and hot tubs can exacerbate allergies. This is because breathing in the vapors inflames the airway. Contact lenses can trap smoke and pollen in the eye, so you may want to consider wearing glasses.

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Perfume, cologne and indoor air fresheners can also aggravate our allergies too. They can irritate nasal passages and cause swelling, which makes breathing difficult. Another activity which most of us could be guilty of are morning walks or jogs. The pollen count is higher before noon, so if you can put your run off until evening you may be doing your sinuses a favor. On the flip side, not exercising can affect us too. This is because exercise temporarily dilates your nasal passages making it easier to breathe.

True or False: Patients with asthma who use chiropractic care had higher quality of life and use less medication. TRUE. Chiropractic care can be very helpful in specific instances, but not every asthma patient will benefit from care as asthma can have multiple causes. An evaluation is important.

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