I have a super loud sneeze, so did my Dad and so does one of my brothers. I have often wondered, is it genetic – I simply have to sneeze loud, it’s in my DNA – or is it learned – I learned from my Dad that it was ok to have a roaring sneeze?
Whatever the case – it’s hay fever and allergy time across the Southern Hemisphere and interestingly, the rates of hay fever and other allergies are going up across the world.
The “proper” name for hay fever is allergic rhinitis which describes an allergic response to airborne allergens like pollen, dust mites, pet dander, and mould spores.
Here’s why the rates of hay fever and other allergies are going up:
- Environmental changes - changes in the environment increase the amounts of allergens - increased pollution, climate change, and more of us living in condensed cities with associated air pollution.
- Hygiene hypothesis – basically, we are too clean. The hygiene hypothesis suggests that reduced exposure to infections and microbes in early childhood may lead to an increased risk of allergies. As societies have become more hygienic and children have fewer infections, the immune system is more prone to developing allergic responses. This is highlighted by international data which shows that children growing up rurally and with more diversity of vegetation have lower rates of asthma than their city counterparts (read more here and here).
- Changes in lifestyle and diet - Western lifestyles, including dietary habits, have changed significantly over the years. Certain dietary factors, such as increased consumption of processed foods and decreased intake of fruits and vegetables, may play a role in the development of allergies. It’s important here to remember that the role of prebiotic fibres, which are present in fruit and vegetables, play a significant role in reducing inflammation and inflammatory signals from the gut, which can also link with respiratory health (read in previous blogs).
- Genetic predisposition - there is a genetic component to the way our body responds to allergies. Individuals with a family history of allergic conditions are more likely to develop allergies themselves. Genetic factors, when combined with environmental triggers, can contribute to the increasing prevalence.
- Changes in diagnostics - improved awareness about allergies and improved diagnostics may have contributed to the perception of increased prevalence. Essentially, more people are seeking medical attention for allergy-related symptoms, leading to higher reported rates.
What happens in our body when we get hay fever?
When a person with hay fever is exposed to allergens, their immune system overreacts, producing antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies trigger the release of histamine and other chemicals, leading to the symptoms of hay fever.
This allergic response is specific to certain allergens and doesn't compromise the overall immune system but sometimes, the chronic inflammation and stress on the immune system can have consequences for our health:
- Increased susceptibility - chronic allergic conditions like hay fever can weaken the respiratory system, making individuals more susceptible to respiratory infections. This doesn't equate to being immunocompromised but it can make it easier for infections to take hold, especially in the respiratory tract.
- Impact on overall health - chronic inflammation and ongoing immune system activation, even if localised to allergic responses, can have systemic effects. Prolonged inflammation can impact overall health and if someone has other underlying health conditions or a weakened immune system for other reasons, hay fever can add to the overall burden on the immune system.
- Quality of life - severe hay fever symptoms can significantly impact your quality of life, leading to fatigue, poor sleep, and difficulty concentrating.
- Secondary infections - constant irritation and inflammation in the nasal passages due to hay fever can make it easier for bacteria or viruses to cause secondary infections, like sinusitis or ear infections.
If hay fever and allergies are a problem for you, it is important to seek medical advice. Our naturally derived Zestt Breathe+ and EXhale products, may also help by reducing inflammation and associated irritation and phlegm, as well as giving your immune system a boost in case of infection.
For any queries, please contact Darcy or Anna (027 599 2255 or 027 4861418 respectively) or via firstname.lastname@example.org.