USA Today

Posted on: Mon, 03/20/2006 - 4:10am
Gail W's picture
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Joined: 12/06/2001 - 09:00

[url="http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2006-03-19-allergies-cover_x.htm"]http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2006-03-19-allergies-cover_x.htm[/url]

To head off allergies, expose your kids to pets and dirt early. Really.

By Steve Sternberg, USA TODAY

Here's the conventional wisdom: Pets promote allergy, kids shouldn't eat peanuts until they're at least 3, and intestinal worms are nothing more than an icky reminder of life before flush toilets.

Jordainae Hobbs, 10, left, and Maurice Gilmore, 7, who suffer from asthma, participate in a clinical trial in Colorado.

By Kevin Moloney for USA TODAY
Here's the new wisdom: Early exposure to pets, peanuts and intestinal worms might actually be good for you, because they program the developing immune system to know the difference between real threats, such as germs, and Aunt Millie's cat. (Graphic: Short-circuiting a cat allergy)

Evidence to support this view has been mounting for more than a decade. But now, for the first time, researchers are beginning to test remedies based on these theories in patients. Other doctors are trying to make use of novel approaches to retrain the immune system once it's too late and allergies set in.

"What we've learned is that it may, in fact, be important to be exposed early on to a sufficient quantity of allergy-causing substances to train the immune system that they are not a threat," says Andy Saxon of the University of California-Los Angeles. "And, in people who already have allergies, we see for the first time where the problems lie, and we have new opportunities to tweak the system."

Scientists base this radical new thinking about human allergies on a deeper understanding of how the immune system works. They have begun to exploit fresh insights to attack allergies and other immune diseases in unexpected ways. No longer content just to treat allergy symptoms, they hope to outwit the immune system and stop allergic responses before they start.

"When you're born, Day Zero, your immune system is like a new computer. It's not programmed. You have to add software," says Joel Weinstock of Tufts New England Medical Center. "Between the ages of zero and 12, you're learning to read, you're learning to write, and your immune system is learning to react to things. Part of that is learning to limit reactivity."

If the new approaches work, millions might benefit. More than 50 million people have allergic diseases, which are the sixth-leading cause of chronic illness in the USA, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), costing the health system $18 billion a year.

Asthma alone accounts for 500,000 hospitalizations a year, including 2 million admissions to the emergency room, says a study in the May 2005 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Since 1980, adult asthma cases have risen by 75% and childhood asthma by 160%, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. (Related: Asthmatic kids under a cloud)

To test whether high-dose exposure breeds tolerance, researchers led by Gideon Lack at Imperial College in London are preparing to launch a counterintuitive

Posted on: Mon, 03/20/2006 - 5:00am
LaurieI's picture
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Joined: 04/04/2002 - 09:00

My child (age 9)was exposed in the womb and through breast milk quite often, so that would suggest she should be tolerant of peanuts according to this theory. Instead she has exema, allergies, and asthma. I am glad for any research that is being done on allergies, but I didn't care for this article. Just my opinion.

Posted on: Mon, 03/20/2006 - 6:03am
MommaBear's picture
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Joined: 09/23/2002 - 09:00

Quote:Originally posted by LaurieI:
[b]My child (age 9)was exposed in the womb and through breast milk quite often, so that would suggest she should be tolerant of peanuts according to this theory. Instead she has exema, allergies, and asthma. [/b]
first, is exposure (is it?) through the womb, or breast milk, the same as other exposure?
second, just because someone doesn't "fit" the theory (for whatever reason(s) ) does that necessarily mean the theory has no validity? Or that we reject it? The study they are contemplating, if my memory serves me.........is seven years long.
I'm open to new information, even if it doesn't fit my own personal bias. KWIM?

Posted on: Mon, 03/20/2006 - 9:30am
LaurieI's picture
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Joined: 04/04/2002 - 09:00

First: My personal belief is that exposure in the womb or breastmilk is not the same as other exposure. But, I do believe that this could have sensitized my child. This is also just a theory which is not proven.
Second: I did not question the validity of the theory or the research program. I used my daughter as an example of why I have trouble with the reasoning. I know she is one person of many and each family and situation is unique.
Third: I stated I was grateful for any research on allergies. It can only help our cause.
Fourth: Just my opinion.

Posted on: Mon, 03/20/2006 - 5:00am
LaurieI's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/04/2002 - 09:00

My child (age 9)was exposed in the womb and through breast milk quite often, so that would suggest she should be tolerant of peanuts according to this theory. Instead she has exema, allergies, and asthma. I am glad for any research that is being done on allergies, but I didn't care for this article. Just my opinion.

Posted on: Mon, 03/20/2006 - 6:03am
MommaBear's picture
Offline
Joined: 09/23/2002 - 09:00

Quote:Originally posted by LaurieI:
[b]My child (age 9)was exposed in the womb and through breast milk quite often, so that would suggest she should be tolerant of peanuts according to this theory. Instead she has exema, allergies, and asthma. [/b]
first, is exposure (is it?) through the womb, or breast milk, the same as other exposure?
second, just because someone doesn't "fit" the theory (for whatever reason(s) ) does that necessarily mean the theory has no validity? Or that we reject it? The study they are contemplating, if my memory serves me.........is seven years long.
I'm open to new information, even if it doesn't fit my own personal bias. KWIM?

Posted on: Mon, 03/20/2006 - 9:30am
LaurieI's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/04/2002 - 09:00

First: My personal belief is that exposure in the womb or breastmilk is not the same as other exposure. But, I do believe that this could have sensitized my child. This is also just a theory which is not proven.
Second: I did not question the validity of the theory or the research program. I used my daughter as an example of why I have trouble with the reasoning. I know she is one person of many and each family and situation is unique.
Third: I stated I was grateful for any research on allergies. It can only help our cause.
Fourth: Just my opinion.

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