As many airplanes and schools become nut-free zones and the rate of asthma cases is on the rise nationwide, it seems that allergies are more common than ever. Dr. Dave Resnick, director of the allergy division at Columbia University, talks with Dr. Oz about the reasons for increased respiratory problems and what to do about them.
Dr. Resnick says that one reason for the allergy increase is the overly sterile environment we live in today. "In the old days, people were exposed to many parasitic infections and the body would fight them by developing antibodies," he says. Now, it seems that foreign proteins that aren't harmful are confusing the immune system, causing the body to create antibodies to fight them, Dr. Resnick says. In addition, the lack of exposure to viruses and bacteria stimulates the allergic system in the body because there's nothing to suppress it.
The best way to treat allergies is avoidance, Dr. Resnick says. Whether it's food, an animal or an asthma trigger, he says the easiest way to prevent a reaction is to stay away from it altogether. If that's not possible, medication is another route. He says that nasal allergies can be treated with antihistamines or topical steroid sprays. For asthma, Dr. Resnick says sufferers can either take a daily preventative medication that prevents symptoms or a product that provides instant relief. "The medications available today work very well," Dr. Resnick says.
Anaphylactic shock, a generalized reaction after ingestion of food or medicine, requires specialized medication to prevent a more serious allergic reaction. "We usually prescribe [an antihistamine] and an EpiPen, a self-injectable device to give yourself a dose of epinephrine or adrenaline, which will reverse the reaction within a couple of minutes," Dr. Resnick says.