Can allergies be defeated by fighting fire with fire?

Can allergies be defeated by fighting fire with fire?

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Hats, goggles, masks… More and more people armed to the teeth appeared on the streets, reminding everyone that Beijing has entered the peak pollen season and the spring allergy season has arrived.

Drinking honey water, eating pollen, keeping pets… Many “allergy stars” are trying various home remedies and clever tricks on the way to fight against allergies to the end! Are their efforts in vain?

Can allergies be cured? How can we reduce the occurrence of allergies? Why did I never have allergies before, but suddenly became allergic when I was in my 40s or 50s? The author interviewed Ma Yanliang, chief physician of the Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Peking University People’s Hospital, and Wang Xi, chief physician of the Department of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, to answer questions about allergies that everyone is concerned about——

Why are you allergic and he’s fine?

Allergies are becoming more and more common. It is estimated that the number of patients with allergic diseases in my country may be in the hundreds of millions. If you want to understand allergies, you must first understand “allergens”. As the name suggests, they are factors that cause allergies, including food (such as wheat, soybeans, peanuts, eggs, etc.), inhalants (such as pollen, mites, etc.), and microorganisms (such as bacteria) , mold, etc.), insect toxins, drugs (such as sulfa, penicillin), etc.

Everyone’s body is different and their allergens are different. In addition, the occurrence of allergies is also related to the individual’s internal factors, that is, allergic constitution. Therefore, under the same circumstances, some people may be allergic to the same substance, while others may not. Clinically, it is often seen that children with parents who are not allergic will be allergic. This is also because the child’s development and growth are not exactly the same as the parents’ constitution.

It is worth noting that long-term bad living habits, such as drinking alcohol, smoking a lot, staying up late, eating irregularly, etc., may lead to immune disorders and increase the risk of allergies.

Among the types of allergic reactions, the most common is type I allergic reaction, also known as immediate allergic reaction or hypersensitivity reaction, which is a reaction that occurs within seconds or minutes after the body comes into contact with the allergen. When our body’s immune system comes into contact with allergens for the first time, it considers them as “enemies”, secretes and releases antibodies (proteins), especially immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies, and forms a memory in the body. Once exposed to this allergen again, a large amount of allergen-specific IgE antibodies will be released to capture the allergen and trigger the release of a series of chemical substances, leading to blood vessel dilation, increased vascular permeability, and smooth muscle contraction, thereby causing rash, Allergy symptoms such as itchy skin, runny nose, sneezing, and difficulty breathing.

At present, both allergic rhinitis and allergic diseases such as allergic asthma can be treated. Experts suggest that you should not worry too much about allergies, let alone get anxious because of allergies, because anxiety is also an important reason for inducing allergies, and excessive anxiety may stimulate the body’s immune response. Please everyone must take allergies seriously and deal with them scientifically.

Are allergies related to aging?

There is a certain relationship. As age increases, the body’s immune system, skin condition, living environment, etc. will change, and these changes may affect the occurrence of allergic reactions.

Clinically, we can see cases where allergies were normal until the age of 40 or 50 years old. This is because allergic reactions are polygenic and usually do not occur soon after birth. Affected by genetic factors, multiple genetic loci and regions in patients are associated with allergic susceptibility. Usually in the same environment, people are more likely to have allergic reactions and allergic diseases than others.

In addition to genetic factors, environmental factors also play an important role. An overly clean environment reduces infectious diseases, a polluted environment (high exposure to PM2.5, PM10), excessive stress and other external factors may cause an individual’s immune system to be overly sensitive, thereby triggering allergic reactions. Therefore, to prevent and reduce the formation of allergies, we must pay attention to the role of genetic factors as well as the influence of environmental factors.

There is a kind of senile rhinitis that occurs in patients over 65 years old. This type of patients is not a typical allergic rhinitis. They do not develop the disease when they are young but develop clinical symptoms when they reach a certain age. Common symptoms include watery nasal discharge, while other symptoms are relatively mild. The main reason is that the nerve sensitivity of the nasal cavity in the elderly changes, the parasympathetic nerve sensitivity increases, and rhinitis with runny nose as the main symptom occurs. The use of choline receptor antagonists can effectively relieve the symptoms of runny nose.

Can more exposure to nature help “anti-allergy”?

The prevalence of allergies has increased, and one of the big reasons is an overly clean environment. Some early studies also found that children on farms, who lived in an unhygienic environment full of natural microorganisms and dust since childhood, exercised their immune systems and enhanced their ability to resist allergies. Instead, they developed allergies. The odds will be even less.

Research has confirmed that the preschool period, especially the newborn period, is an important period for the formation of a child’s immune system. When the early immune system is exposed to antigens (whether natural or artificial), it can easily lead to lifelong or long-term tolerance, which will reduce the stimulation of the environment. The object defaults to “Friends”. Exposure to unfamiliar allergens as an adult will activate some excessive immune responses.

On the other hand, if the environment is excessively clean and lacks necessary microbial stimulation, and if the environment is exposed again as an adult, the immune system will regard it as an abnormal substance, and a series of overreactions will occur. This is an allergy. Therefore, increasing exposure to the natural environment in early childhood may reduce the chance of developing allergies in the future.

But experts remind that this does not mean that all children can avoid allergies in this way. For allergies, it is still necessary to consider a variety of factors and take appropriate preventive and treatment measures.

In addition, many studies have found that excessive use of antibacterial products and cleansers can destroy the microbial balance on the skin, causing damage to the skin’s epithelial barrier function. The skin is more susceptible to external stimulation and infection, and is associated with various skin and mucous membrane allergies. Disease related. Therefore, to maintain a healthy immune system and avoid allergic reactions, you should avoid excessive cleaning and overuse of antibacterial products while maintaining appropriate hygiene and cleanliness.

 Can keeping pets prevent allergies for children?

uncertain. Many foreign studies believe that early exposure to pets can reduce the risk of allergies in children. However, there is currently no particularly clear relevant research in China.

But from a clinical point of view, some children may still develop allergies after being exposed to pets. This may be because the environments we live in are different. Compared with the small space of urban apartments, the concentration of various allergens brought by pets in relatively open and spacious environments such as farms is relatively low, and the chance of allergies will also be reduced.

Additionally, fish, birds, or other reptiles may cause allergic reactions.

Can eating more probiotics reduce allergies?

Intestinal flora is a complex ecosystem composed of a variety of bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms. They play important physiological functions in the human body, such as participating in food digestion, synthesizing vitamins, and resisting foreign pathogens.

As urbanites, we basically eat sterilized food purchased in supermarkets. Over time, the intestinal flora, which is supposed to be “prosperous” with various ethnic groups of bacteria, has become more and more monotonous, destroying the balance of intestinal flora. , allowing harmful bacteria to take the opportunity to multiply and cause intestinal problems.

In the modern lifestyle, probiotics have received widespread attention and popularity due to their benefits in improving intestinal health, enhancing immunity, and promoting nutrient absorption.

Can probiotics be used to increase intestinal flora to prevent allergies? There are only a few experiments, and none have been supported by large-scale studies.

In general, eating more probiotics may be helpful in reducing allergies, but it cannot be used as a standard treatment for allergies.

Can drinking honey and eating pollen enhance your anti-allergy ability?

Indeed, there are some folk tips for preventing allergies. For example, drinking honey or eating pollen in small amounts and multiple times is a strategy of “fighting poison with poison” to prevent allergies. There is no clear scientific consensus on this method.

Honey has been considered a nutritious food and medicine since ancient times. It has anti-inflammatory, expectorant, moisturizing and cough-relieving effects. Many people believe that honey contains trace amounts of bee venom and pollen particles. Patients with pollen allergies hope to allow their bodies to accept pollen and reduce the occurrence of allergies by taking honey in small amounts and gradually.

Honey is a natural food that bees collect nectar from flowers and brew in the hive. It is rich in nutrients, such as sugar, vitamins and minerals. Pollen is the male reproductive cells of plants and is spread by wind or insects.

Although honey has certain anti-allergic effects, it is not a panacea for treating allergies. Honey and pollen, although associated with flowers, do not themselves directly trigger pollen allergies. Pollen allergy is usually caused by the body’s allergic reaction to pollen from specific plants, causing discomfort in the respiratory tract, skin or digestive system.

For people with pollen allergies, it is most important to understand and avoid exposure to their allergens.

Can more exercise improve allergies?

Allergies are usually caused by an individual’s allergic constitution. This constitution may be a special constitution formed on the basis of innate genetics, or it may be caused by a decrease in the body’s immunity. Because allergies are related to a variety of factors including genetics and environment, they usually cannot be cured.

More exercise can enhance the body’s immunity, improve the body’s ability to resist external allergens, and help improve allergic constitution, but it is more important to avoid contact with allergens. You also need to actively cooperate with the doctor for treatment and pay attention to daily care to improve the symptoms of allergies and reduce the probability of allergic attacks. Text/Zhong Yanyu (Peking University People’s Hospital)

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