This overview shows how visitors answered the allergy question. The vertical axis shows if each visitor has allergies or not. Each dot represents a visitor’s response. Do you think parents, siblings, or the environment affect whether we develop allergies? Your response is the red dot. This graph also shows the responses of 150 other museum visitors.
During the attack
Whether it is a mild rash, a sneeze, or a scary, full-body shock, an allergic reaction is your body trying to protect itself. Your immune system is helpful when it is fighting things that can hurt you, but when it reacts to substances that would not normally hurt you, it causes an allergic reaction. Common allergens include foods, plants, and animal dander, but you can be allergic to anything your immune system does not recognize.
Growing allergy problem
Scientists do not know exactly why allergies are on the rise, but they are exploring many different hypotheses. Exposure to fewer microbes when we are young may limit the development of our immune systems. Another theory is concerned about an increase in pollutants and pollen in the air. These irritants can damage the body’s protective mucus membranes and may leave us exposed to more allergens. Are we developing more allergies because we are exposed to fewer pathogens than our ancestors were?