What is Allergy?
Have you ever started wheezing after spending too much time outdoors especially in traffic? Or suddenly sneezed when breathing in the fumes released by a factory? Or felt your tongue swell up after eating prawns? Or got a red angry rash on your skin for no apparent reason? Do you often suffer from headaches, nausea, or fatigue? If your answer is yes to any one or more of these questions, then you may be suffering from an allergy.
The word ‘allergy’ comes from two Greek words, which mean ‘altered reaction’. In case of a living organism’s body, it is the hyper-sensitivity of the immune system to allergens (allergy causing substances). And this makes our immune system attack the body itself! Allergies can be of various types – inhalant, food, chemical, skin, and multiple – and their symptoms can vary from a mild rash to an asthma attack. Some reactions can even lead to death. So are we incapable of taking in these aliens? No, we are not.
Nature has given many weapons to our bodies against the invasion of unwanted alien substances. These include our nose hair, earwax, skin, and mucous. But the most important among these is our immune system, which produces white blood cells (WBC) to fight infection and diseases. But, the enemy is getting stronger day by day. The increasing number of irritants present in the environment is slowly overpowering our bodies’ natural defenses.
Allergies have existed from time immemorial. However, they were never as widespread or severe as they are today. Normally, natural allergens like pollen cause seasonal allergies, which run their course and die out. But according to most doctors, allergies are no more seasonal. They have become perennial. And this is due to the influence of ‘unnatural’ allergens – like fumes of diesel exhausts, volatile organic solvents (VOC), pesticides, and tobacco smoke.
These health hazards are ever present around us, and we are completely unaware of their threat. Rapid industrialization and an increased dependence on products with high chemical content have wrecked havoc on our environment and in turn, our bodies. Contamination of food and water with pesticides and fertilizers, addiction to processed food items and additives, dust, smog, and constant exposure to VOCs from regularly used substances like plastics, adhesives and paints are all harming our bodies. And our defense systems cannot keep pace with these rapid changes in the environment.
Moreover, it is a vicious cycle. Increase in allergies means reduced efficiency of the immune system, which in turn means that the body becomes more susceptible to diseases.
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we should avoid the use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers, chemical additives in food, use of diesel in vehicles, and smoking in public areas also fall in this danger zone.
Yoga and Pranayam may also help fighting it.
In a nutshell, we must deter the degradation of our environment and work towards cleaning it up.