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  • Triple Threat

    Ahh… the changing seasons. Winter snow thaws, birds chirp, the sun shines brightly – and pollen flies. This season, many people will itch, sneeze and wheeze their way into spring. Although seasonal allergies plague many adults and kids alike, they’re not solely responsible for these annoying symptoms. Some allergic reactions, such as a peanut allergy, can cause problems and even be life-threatening. Luckily, scientists are busy exploring allergies, immune function and various treatments for these ailments. Last time, I wrote about pollution, which is just one of the four main environmental factors thought to be causing a sharp rise in allergies, along with childhood disease, general allergen levels and dietary changes. Of course, some allergies are experienced year-round and are typically due to mold or indoor allergens like dust mites.

    A Barrier Problem
    What about the rise in eczema? Most children born with eczema outgrow the flaky skin condition, but many go on to develop other allergic conditions, such as asthma and hay fever. Could there be an inherited link? It turns out that, yes, there is in fact a genetic link between asthma, eczema and even peanut allergies. A new series of studies by the University of Dundee in Scotland have uncovered a genetic mutation in the filaggrin gene (a structural protein) that can result in all three of these conditions. According to the researchers, the filaggrin gene defect may be the ultimate factor predisposing an individual to develop eczema, asthma, and now even peanut allergies. In healthy people, filaggrin is converted to natural moisturizing factor (NMF). As the skin cells turn over, filaggrin breaks down into NMF which helps the skin retain water inside the cells. In people with the defective filaggrin mutation, the skin develops dry, itchy patches.
    According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, allergic diseases affect as many as 40 to 50 million Americans, and these statistics appear to be on the rise. While we do not have a cure for eczema just yet, it is important to identify triggers and manage symptoms – without kicking out the cat! Here’s some advice for helping to lessen symptoms:

    • Use products with anti-irritant properties, such as Oat extracts, and apply frequently.
    • Use emollients with ceramides, essential fatty acids and cholesterol to restore the skin’s natural moisture barrier.
    • Avoid heavily scented products and detergents
    • Spring clean your home- wash linens often and put filters on vents
    • Avoid hot showers, and always moisturize after washing.

    For more information, read the latest report here.

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