Feeling the spring pollen allergies yet? Here's some really weird news. Apparently being born in the U.S. puts you at a higher risk for allergies. Kids born outside the US are less likely to have allergy diseases like asthma, eczema, hay fever, and food allergies than kids born here. And even if you're born outside the U.S., your chances of coming down with those allergy diseases is higher if you move here. Yikes, why are so many of us allergic to America?
Well, the short story is doctors don't really know for certain. But they have a few ideas. Here's what some suspect are causing our allergies, and what you might want to do about it.
- Climate/environment: Early exposure to pollution could be contributing to allergies. If you're living around cars or near plants or factories, or even large farms with runoff, there's not a whole lot you can do besides move, and that's not always an option.
- Toxins: Exposure to toxins like synthetic fertilizers, chemical cleaning products, and flame retardants might be a factor. This is something you can minimize just by choosing non-toxic products as often as possible, or even making your own DIY household cleaners.
- Junk food: Allergy diseases, especially asthma, have been tied to fast food and processed food. It's weird, but the connection is there. Maybe this is a good reason to cut back on those kids' meals. Try eating more of the allergy-fighting foods people in other countries rely on, like turmeric.
- Obesity: Seems like people are blaming everything on obesity these days. But in addition to watching diet, make sure you're active enough that all your vitals are working well. I don't think everyone has to be skinny. Healthy comes in many shapes and sizes. But we all need to be moving around regularly.
- Hygene Hypothesis: This is the idea that our obsession with antibacterial soaps and constant hand-washing doesn't let us develop our immune system. As a general rule, I avoid buying antibacterial soaps and cleaners. And while I still like washing my hands before meals and after I've been outside, I try not to be a total germaphobe. I try, anyway.
- Living near allergen triggers: Allergic to cats? Don't own them. I learned this the hard way. Wear a mask when you dust to protect yourself from dust mites -- and dust often. I have no idea if living in the desert helps with hay fever, but it might work!
- Genes: This isn't mentioned in the article, but inheritance is one of the biggest factor (maybe THE biggest factor) in allergy diseases. If you have one parent with allergies, you're 30 percent likely to have allergies. Two parents, and it goes up to 70 percent. Maybe this is the missing key to this study -- Americans have more allergies because we keep marrying each other and passing on our predisposition to have allergies! So if you're single... maybe consider dating only people without allergies? Good luck.
- Bad timing: Here's another interesting theory. Allergies might be caused at a very young age when you just happen to have a respiratory illness at the same time that there's a lot of pollen in the air. How it happens is kind of a long story. I have no idea what parents could do about this, though. Work extra hard to prevent our babies from getting colds in the spring? Good luck with that one, too!
Why do you think people born in the U.S. are more likely to have allergies?
Image via mcfarlandmo/Flickr