Jul 31, 2013

Scientists Closer to Cat Allergy Cure

Scientists say they're hopeful that a research breakthrough will lead to a cure for people who are allergic to cats.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge say they've figured out how a particular protein in cat dander triggers an allergic response in humans. Many people are allergic to cats, dogs, and other animals. Typical symptoms include sneezing, itchiness, and a stuffed or runny nose. Allergic reactions happen when the immune system overreacts to a perceived danger. Normally, the immune system identifies and responds to harmful viruses and bacteria. But with an allergy, the immune system wrongly identifies an allergen as dangerous, such as pet dander, and starts an immune response.

The most common cause of severe allergic reactions to cats is a protein called Fel d 1, which is found in microscopic pieces of animal skin (often accompanied by dried saliva) from grooming.

The Cambridge team discovered how this protein can trigger an inflammatory response when in the presence of a common bacterial toxin found in the environment called lipopolysaccharide, or LPS.

"How cat dander causes such a severe allergic reaction in some people has long been a mystery," said Clare Bryant, who led the research at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Veterinary Medicine. "Not only did we find out that LPS [intensifies] the immune response’s reaction to cat dander, we identified the part of immune system that recognizes it, the receptor TLR4."

The scientists then used medication that curbs the TLR4 response and found it blocks the effects of the cat dander protein on human cells, thereby preventing an inflammatory response.

Bryant says she's hopeful that the research will lead to new treatments for people with cat allergies, and possibly those with dog allergies.

Jul 23, 2013

Definition of Allergic reaction

Allergic reaction: The hypersensitive response of the immune system of an allergic individual to a substance.

When an allergen enters the body, it causes the body's immune system to develop an allergic reaction in a person with an allergy to it. This reaction can occur when the immune system attacks a normally harmless substance (the allergen). The immune system calls upon a protective antibody called immunoglobulin E or IgE to fight these invading substances. Even though everyone has some IgE, an allergic person has an unusually large army of these IgE defenders -in fact, too many for their own good. This army of IgE antibodies attacks and engages the invading army of allergic substances of allergens. As is often the case in war, innocent bystanders are affected by this battle. These innocent bystanders are special cells called mast cells. When a mast cell is injured or irritated, it releases a variety of strong chemicals, including histamine, into the tissues and blood that promote allergic reactions. These chemicals are very irritating and cause itching, swelling, and fluid leaking from nearby cells. These allergic chemicals can cause muscle spasm and can lead to lung airway and throat tightening as is found in asthma and loss of voice. They are also what leads to the familiar hay fever or allergic rhinitis and common pink eye.

Jul 17, 2013

How To Have A Healthy Summer

As summer arrives with gorgeous sunny days and warm weather, it also brings the threat of sunburns, allergies, bug bites, and other potential health complications.

Below are some tips that may help you enjoy a problem-free summer.

Protect yourself from UVA rays:

UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin's layers and provide that tan so many people seek. However, UVA rays also eventually damage the immune system.

Put simply, spending too much time in the sun results in overexposure to UVA rays which can eventually cause life threatening skin cancers.

Drink plenty of water:

One caution: drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine can actually increase fluid output, making it much harder to be properly hydrated.

Signs of dehydration include:

One caution: drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine can actually increase fluid output, making it much harder to be properly hydrated.

  • dry mouth
  • headache
  • light-headedness
  • dizziness
  • little or no urination
  • constipation.
Dehydration is a major cause of:

  • Heat stroke - when body temperature rises higher than 40.6 °C (105.1°F). To avoid heatstroke wear lightweight clothing, avoid direct sunlight, use air conditioning, drink cold water, and avoid heavy meals.
  • Seizures - dehydration leas to a lack of electrolytes. Electrolytes send electrical signals from cell to cell. When electrolyte levels fall too low these signals don't function properly, leading to involuntary muscle contractions.
  • Cerebral Edema - may occur when you drink after being dehydrated. The body sends water to the cells, however, it can send too much causing cells to swell and rupture.
  • Severe dehydration can also lead to kidney failure, coma, and even death.
Don't just sit around, go out and exercise

For many people, spending the summer indoors lounging around may seem like a good idea, but why not see it as an opportunity to engage in some physical activities. 

Not only are these activities good for mental health and warding off obesity and becoming fit, other benefits of physical activity include:

Reduced risk of breast cancer revealed thatbreast cancer risk can be reduced through exercise and physical activity.

Reduced risk of psoriasis - psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder which causes redness, scaling, and irritation. A study published in Archives of Dermatology, showed that American women who engaged in energetic, physical activity were at a reduced risk of psoriasis.

Better cognition in children and older adults - there are a number of studies now showing that aerobic exercise can increase the size of critical brain structures and improve cognition in children and older adults.

Better sleep - a previous study found that people sleep much better and feel more alert during the day if they exercise for at least 150 minutes a week.

Try and avoid insects and bugs

Insect stings are responsible for more than half a million emergency room visits every year in the U.S., according to The National Pest Management Association (NPMA). Allergic reactions to insect bites can even be fatal.

  • When outdoors be sure to use insect repellent that either contains DEET (30 to 50 percent) or picaridin (up to 15 percent).
  • Making sure all windows and doors are properly closed
  • Throwing out garbage as often as possible
  • Wearing shoes all the time
  • Seeking immediate medical attention if you are stung and have a reaction
  • Contacting a licensed pest professional if you believe your house has a stinging insect infestation

Jul 9, 2013

Latex Allergy

Latex, also known as rubber or natural latex, is derived from the milky sap of the rubber tree, found in Africa and Southeast Asia. Latex allergy is an allergic reaction to substances in natural latex. Rubber gloves are the main source of allergic reactions, although latex is also used in other products such as condoms and some medical devices.

The exact cause of latex allergies is unknown, but it is thought that repeated exposure to latex and rubber products may induce symptoms. About 5% to 10% of health care workers have some form of allergy to latex.

Other than health care workers, people at increased risk for developing latex allergies include those who have:

  • A defect in their bone marrow cells.
  • A deformed bladder or urinary tract
  • A history of multiple surgeries
  • A urinary catheter, which has a rubber tip
  • Allergy, asthma, or eczema
  • Food allergies to bananas, avocados, kiwis, or chestnuts
  • Rubber industry workers and condom users are also at increased risk for developing a latex allergy.

Routes of latex exposure include:

  • Through the skin, as occurs when latex gloves are worn.
  • Through mucous membranes, such as the eyes, mouth, vagina, and rectum.
  • Through inhalation. Rubber gloves contain a powder that can be inhaled.
  • Through the blood, as may occur when some medical devices containing rubber are used.

There are three types of latex reactions:

  1. Irritant contact dermatitis. The least threatening type of latex reaction, classified as a non-allergenic skin reaction. It usually occurs as a result of repeated exposure to chemicals in latex gloves and results in dryness, itching, burning, scaling, and lesions of the skin.
  2. Allergic contact dermatitis. A delayed reaction to additives used in latex processing, which results in the same type of reactions as irritant contact dermatitis (dryness, itching, burning, scaling, and lesions of the skin). The reaction, though, is more severe, spreads to more parts of the body, and lasts longer.
  3. Immediate allergic reaction (latex hypersensitivity). The most serious reaction to latex. It can show up as rhinitis with hay fever-like symptoms, conjunctivitis (pink eye), cramps, hives, and severe itching. It is rare, but symptoms may progress to include rapid heartbeat, tremors, chest pain, difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, anaphylactic shock, or potentially, death

Allergic reactions to latex can range from skin redness and itching to more serious symptoms, such as hives or gastrointestinal problems. True allergic reactions to latex rarely progress to the life-threatening conditions such as low blood pressure, difficulty breathing or rapid heart rate. However, if left untreated, these conditions could potentially result in death.

If you experience severe symptoms, call your doctor or 911 immediately, or go to the nearest emergency room.

Jul 3, 2013

Food Allergies Linked to Pesticides

People exposed to higher levels of certain germ- and weed-killing chemicals may also be more likely to develop food allergies, a new study shows.

The chemicals are called dichlorophenols (DCPs). They are created by the breakdown of common pesticides, including chlorinated chemicals used to purify drinking water. They also turn up in moth balls, air fresheners, deodorizer cakes in urinals, and certain herbicides sprayed on crops. “They’re quite common,” says researcher Elina Jerschow, MD, an allergist at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y.

Doctors don’t know why, but rates of food allergies are rising in the U.S. A 2008 study by the CDC found an 18% jump from 1997 to 2007. Jerschow wondered if increased protection from germs might somehow be lowering the body’s tolerance to foods.

Using data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), she compared levels of the chemicals in urine to antibodies to foods in the blood. She admits that’s an imperfect way to measure food allergies, since people can be sensitive to certain foods without having any problems when they eat. Of the 2,211 people included in the study, most had detectable levels of DCPs in their urine. About 400 showed sensitivity to at least one food, like peanuts, eggs, or milk. More than 1,000 people were sensitive to an environmental allergen, like ragweed or pet dander.

People with the highest levels of of the chemicals were nearly twice as likely to show sensitivity to at least one food compared to those with lowest levels of those chemicals. That remained true even after researchers adjusted their data to account for other factors, like race, age, and a diagnosis of allergies or asthma.

“For some reason, in our study, we found people who were sensitized to foods had the highest levels of dichlorophenols,” Jerschow says.

More Research Needed

The study doesn’t prove that DCPs cause food allergies. It merely shows the two are related in some way.

Still, the study lends some support to an idea called the hygiene hypothesis. The hygiene hypothesis suggests that the cleaner our environment, the sicker we become, since our immune system has been robbed of the opportunity to meet and fight off invaders. Experts who were not involved in the research say the idea that pesticides may be a driver of food allergies is an interesting idea, but they aren’t yet convinced of the connection.

“The massive increase in food allergies is a relatively recent phenomenon, but we have been using chlorine to disinfect tap water since the mid-19th century. So it does not seem likely that the source of the problem is chlorinated tap water,” says Elizabeth Scott, PhD, co-director of the Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community at Simmons College in Boston.

But since drinking water isn’t the only source, it may be that we’ve reached a kind of environmental tipping point with these chemicals.