Allergens are all around us. It seems like a fairly straightforward concept, though how they find their way to us can be extremely surprising. Take for example, animal allergens. If you learned that your child had a dog allergy, what steps would you take to avoid issues for them?
The most common response to this would likely be some variation of not having a pet dog and limiting visits to places where dogs live. After all, kids spend most of their time at school or at home so you may think there is little risk of exposure in these controlled environments.
This is, however, not the case. Studies have found that children will be exposed to dog and cat allergens just by attending school. During a 1998 study conducted in a Swedish school it was discovered that allergens were present on the clothes worn by all pet owning students. Despite preventative measures we may take against them, allergens still find a way to infiltrate places we believe are safe.
Allergens are definitely a bit more complex than we may give them credit for. That is because allergens truly are everywhere. But, what exactly is an allergen?
Typically, an allergen is either a protein or a glycoprotein. The most common of these can be found in pollen, fungus, dust-mites, and animal material. When these enter your body, either through inhaling or ingesting them, they trigger an immune response. This immune response is what causes common allergic reactions like coughing and sneezing, as well as more serious reactions like anaphylaxis.
As you know, however, there are far more allergies than the ones listed above. Bugs like cockroaches are a massive cause of allergens, many people have severe reactions to bee stings, and medications that can save one person’s life may kill another who takes it. It is truly fascinating how something so simple can cause such a wide array of reactions in different subjects.
To summarize, there is no truly effective way to outrun allergens. They are a part of our world and will always be there. Luckily, through medical science advances, we have devised a number of ways to manage and deal with their effects as we continue our research on the topic.
Lei, D. and Grammer, L., 2019. An overview of allergens. Allergy and Asthma Proceedings, 40(6), pp.362-365. https://doi.org/10.2500/aap.2019.40.4247
Berge, M., Munir, A. and Dreborg, S., 1998. Concentrations of cat (Fel d 1), dog (Can f 1) and mite (Der f 1 and Der p 1) allergens in the clothing and school environment of Swedish schoolchildren with and without pets at home. Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, 9(1), pp.25-30. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1399-3038.1998.tb00296.x
de Vrieze, J., 2020. Suspicions Grow That Nanoparticles In Pfizer’S COVID-19 Vaccine Trigger Rare Allergic Reactions. [online] Science | AAAS. Available at: <https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/12/suspicions-grow-nanoparticles-pfizer-s-covid-19-vaccine-trigger-rare-allergic-reactions> [Accessed 21 December 2020].