All the runny noses and itchy eyes tell us it’s allergy season in Michigan. From April to June, grass pollen creates problems for many. In autumn, ragweed and other pollen-shedding plants cause misery. If it seems that more people have allergies than ever, that indeed is the case.
Dr. Bill Miller, an author and blogger who studies the causes of allergies, said one problem is that many Americans are too clean; researchers call it the hygiene hypothesis. Miller said we’ve upset the balance of internal germs in our bodies by protecting ourselves more than our ancestors did.
“They had the cows and the goats, and all the pigs and everything,” he said. “The family unit lived right on top of the farm animals. Kids used to roll in the dirt. Kids spent almost all their day outside. Now, in our modern society, we live indoors.”
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology has cited research that suggests early antibiotic use changes the bacterial flora, which affects the development of allergic diseases, including asthma. Other studies suggest we may be using too many products such as acetaminophen to treat children.
Miller said people need to back away a little from the use of hand sanitizers and antibiotics.
“Are antibiotics the problem? No, they’re wonder drugs,” he said. “They’re one of the greatest inventions in all of world history – but we’re using them so commonly that we’re having unintended side effects.”
Miller said we’re upsetting the natural balance in our bodies, and that doctors need to stand their ground and not give out prescriptions so easily.
“I was taught to use antibiotics when you should,” he said. “But, that said, as a front-line physician, I can tell you that there’s a lot of pressure on doctors to offer antibiotics to patients or parents for their young children, because there’s such a profound belief that they do the trick.”
Miller stressed that children should play with other children and have pets early in life because exposure to other germs can help them avoid allergies later in life.