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If you are the parent of an allergic child, it is very likely that
you are an allergy sufferer yourself. You know the misery that
allergies can bring, on a scale from annoying itching of skin and
eyes at one end, to debilitating sneezing fits, to life-threatening
asthma attacks or anaphylactic shock at the other. You know how
allergies can be misdiagnosed. You know about the drowsiness induced
by some antihistamines, the inconvenience of carrying nebulizers and
inhalers. You know how the joy of childhood can be diminished by
eternal vigilance about foods, activities, and environments.
We know about them, too. We are both board-certified allergists. For
some sixty years between the two of us, we have been treating
children like yours, and from what we have seen, the prognosis for
allergy treatment is troubling.
For one thing, allergies seem to be becoming more frequent.
Part of this is due to changes in the way we live. We live in homes
that are sealed to trap heat in the winter and cool conditioned air
in the summer. We havewall-to-wall carpeting and throw rugs on our
floors. But this comfortable and energy-conscious approach creates
an environment in which dust mites thrive. Energy efficiency means
that there is less fresh air from outside being exchanged with stale
air indoors, which means that dust builds up inside. Carpeting may
be comfortable to walk on, insulating, and attractive, but dust that
settles on it doesn't come out.
In a sense, allergy is a price we have paid for progress. The body's
defenses-the immune system-evolved to help us fight off parasites
that afflicted our ancestors when mankind had very little ability to
influence either their environment or their diet. The first great
impetus for the development of allergies may have been the invention
of shoes, which kept worms or other parasites from entering our feet
and thereby put parts of the immune system out of work.
Frank T. Vertosick, Jr., author of a recent book called The Genius
Within: Discovering the Intelligence of Every Living Thing, advances
the theory that the brain is not the only part of the body that can
learn from experience. He writes, "The immune system must learn and
recall billions, perhaps trillions, of different molecular patterns.
Our lives depend on its ability to make instant discriminations
between friend and foe, not an easy task." While our specialty is
Allergy and Immunology, we will reserve judgment on whether this
constitutes "intelligence" or not. However, we never cease to wonder
at the resourcefulness of the immune system, not only its resiliency
in combating disease, but also its potential for mischief when it
Because of modern sanitation, climate control, and immunization,
many of the original problems the immune system evolved to combat no
longer exist routinely in advanced industrial countries like ours.
However, the defenses are still within us. Like soldiers demobilized
at the end of a war, they need time to adjust after the fighting
stops, but in the case of immunity that has evolved over aeons, the
adjustment hasn't begun. Idle hands make the devil's work. These are
defenses in search of an enemy, and they spend their time attacking
all kinds of things-molds, pollens, chemicals used in the
construction of our homes-and in the process of attacking those
irritants, they throw off toxins that make us sick.
There's a saying that what children need in their homes to keep
allergies from developing is a pound of dirt, as would be the case
on a farm. That theory recently gained support in a study published
in the summer of 2002 saying that infants raised in homes with two
or more cats and dogs developed allergies at roughly half the rate
as children in pet-free homes. Moreover, they were less allergic not
just to dogs and cats but to pollens and other common allergens as
If progress is causing all that trouble, is it worth it? Or should
we all move into mud huts?
We'll leave that to philosophers. In the meantime, we have the
obligation to try to keep ahead of our bodies' own defenses. The
science allows us to give it a try. And what the science says is
that the jury is still out on exposing children to cats and dogs to
try to protect them against allergies, as the author of the study
was among the first to point out. After all, the data cited in the
above-mentioned study were contrary to long-established wisdom and
practice on the subject. It may well be a statistical anomaly. The
results must be repeatable. So, much to the consternation of
animal-loving new parents in families with a history of allergy, we
must advise that they not run out to the animal shelter and stock up
on new pets.
Excerpted from What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children's Allergies and Asthma
by Paul Ehrlich Larry Chiaramonte
Copyright © 2003 by Paul Ehrlich, M.D. and Larry Chiaramonte, M.D..
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
|Chapter 1||Introduction to Allergy||1|
|Chapter 2||When Cells Attack: The Mechanics of Allergy||15|
|Chapter 3||What Is Asthma?||32|
|Chapter 4||The Nose Knows: Upper Airway Congestion and Asthma||58|
|Chapter 5||Food, Glorious Food?||73|
|Chapter 6||Skin Allergies: Eczema, Hives, and Contact Dermatitis||107|
|Chapter 7||Testing, Testing, 1-2-3, Testing--What Is Your Child Allergic To?||126|
|Chapter 8||The Hows and Whys of Allergy and Asthma Medication||144|
|Chapter 9||Immunotherapy: Strengths and Weaknesses||178|
|Chapter 10||Alternative Treatment for Allergy and Asthma||192|
|Chapter 11||Stages of an Allergic Life||210|
|Chapter 12||Allergies and the Environment||233|
|Chapter 13||Children Are Children, Even with Allergies||251|
|Chapter 14||Mom and the Rest of the Family||267|
|Chapter 15||Taking Control of Your Child's Allergies and Asthma||293|
|Appendix B||Quick Guide to Allergy and Asthma Medications||313|
Posted January 6, 2004
All these years of allergies and asthma and I never understood how it works. Now I think I get it. These docs explain that allergies are really very interesting mechanisms that have gone haywire and can do really serious damage. Clear and entertaining as well as practical.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.