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==>There appears to be something of an explosion in complaints
==>of allergic reactions. There are some more or less wild
==>suggestions as to why this is.

If I may, I make another more or less wild suggestion as to why this
is. Possibly people are just experiencing and expecting better &
better health. As diseases like whooping cough, smallpox &
TB fall by the wayside (we hope), relatively minor effects like allergic
reactions rise out of the noise. And people being people, if there
IS something, ANYTHING, to complain about, will.
Compare for example the definition of poverty. The current
definition of poverty includes as "impoverished" someone with
an indoor toilet, hot & cold running water, etc., which were luxuries
available to only the richest fraction a couple centuries ago.
Note that I am NOT saying the I disagree with the current
definition of poverty.

I think your explanation may be somewhat oversimplified, Bill. As a
life-long (66 years) sufferer from hay fever and food allergies, as
well as childhood asthma, I recall that my family took my allergies
quite seriously in the 30s when the overwhelmingly feared disease was
polio. Asthma, whether in the days when it competed with other
diseases for attention, or more recently, when it has been able to
move more to center stage, has always been recognized as a
potentially life-threatening ailment, and not at all "relatively
minor." There have been several proposals about why there seems to be
an explosion in the occurrence of asthma, most of them related wither
to environmental pollutants or to stress, both of which seem
reasonable to me.

It is well-known that an asthma attack can be induced in someone who
is susceptible by increased stress, and certainly atmospheric
pollutants are logical candidates, since asthma is simply an
inability of the lungs to extract enough oxygen from the air,
anything in the air that can interfere with this process can bring on
the symptoms of asthma, and increasing the capability of the lungs to
extract the oxygen there will relieve those symptoms, as do the drugs
presently prescribed for it. It may well turn out that there are more
people susceptible to the malady than was formerly thought, and with
the increase in stress that young people feel these days (read, peer
pressure and end-of-course tests in school, to name but two sources),
as well as the degradation in atmospheric quality in most parts of
the country compared to what it was when I was young, it could easily
be that the incidence of asthma among young people is really
increasing and not just becoming more apparent as other diseases
recede into the background. It is also true that the malady may well
be much better diagnosed today than it was 60 years ago, and thus
fewer cases are being missed. Or maybe it is a combination of the two.

Of course we cannot, without some investigation, rule out the effect
of a large increase in the number of allergists who make their living
by diagnosing allergies that may or may not exist and then treating
them. Personally, I have given up on allergists many years ago, and
since most of my allergic reactions are respiratory, I have been
treated by an ENT physician for the past five years, and my incidence
of hay fever has dropped nearly to zero, and I have found out that it
really *is* possible to breath with your mouth closed. Several
previous sessions with allergists had not yielded anything like these

WRT the modification of the definition of poverty over the centuries,
let me point out, that along with the addition of amenities to the
life-style of all but the poorest of the population, has come the
near elimination (except among the poorest of the population) of many
diseases which used to be rampant among the middle classes as well,
such as TB, scarlet fever, whooping cough, measles, and many others.
Improved public health and sanitation can be given a large fraction
of the credit for their elimination, along with vaccines, and diet.
It's easy to forget that during the "good old days" the average life
expectancy was less than fifty years, and during the depraved modern
times life expectancy has improved to well into the eighth decade.
That fact, however, may have some bearing on the increased rate of
cancer among the population--since that is a disease mostly of aging,
as people live longer, the likelihood that they will contract cancer
goes up. Of course, there may be environmental factors here as well,
as well as improved diagnosis.


Hugh Haskell

(919) 467-7610

Let's face it. People use a Mac because they want to, Windows because they
have to..