Marching with Allergies

I have been living with allergies for 26 years now…

And yet after all of that time, I still have so much to learn about why my body reacts so violently to watermelons, cats, and dust-mites…

Animal dander was the culprit in my first asthmatic trauma. On a childhood sleepover, I was sharing my friend’s spare bed with her cat. Its hair was all over my pillow. Far too shy to complain, I remember trying to breathe shallowly, in a vain effort to avoid inhaling the essence of cat from the bed. Not until three in the morning, face swollen and airways inflamed to the point that I could hardly breathe, did I finally gather the courage to wake my friend’s parents. That night ended with hospital-administered inhalant bronchodilators and a good dose of antihistamines. But my lifelong struggle with allergic disorders and hyper-reactivity continues.
My mother, herself allergy-prone, remembers my inflamed and itchy skin lesions in infancy. Then, in my toddler years, as my father recounts, I started to show “this peculiar reaction” around animals, scratching at my throat as my eyes went red, watery and swollen. Today, I am plagued by allergic asthma and, perhaps more frustrating and stressful, an explosion of food allergies and bouts of intensely itchy eczema that often keep me up all night long.

But what causes this apparent ‘march’ from one type of allergy to the next? Why do children with symptoms of eczema often grow into additional allergy symptoms, including hayfever and asthma?

Find out why in this week’s Nature Magazine, featuring an Outlook on Allergies. Paige Brown explains why individuals may experience the ‘atopic march’ from one allergic disorder to another in her article Marching with Allergies.

Paige K Brown (2011). Atopy: Marching with allergies Nature, 479 : 10.1038/479S14a