Why Some People Have Seasonal Allergies While Others Don’t

It can be frustrating when gorgeous weather beckons you to go outside and you suddenly find your adventurous spirit is getting in the way of your only true enemy: allergies. Why does harmless plants seem to attack our senses? And why does this only concern some of us?

In this TED-Ed lesson from Eleanor Nelson, we learn that our immune systems simply confuse harmless pollen and mold spores with something potentially harmful, like bacteria, and the nasty allergic reaction we experience is our the body protects. Allergies tend to be inherited, so there may be a genetic component that determines which allergens affect you and where you grow up as well. Exposure to allergens in infancy reduces the likelihood of developing allergies later (but this does not mean that you should send your child to ride in the weeds). The hygiene hypothesis states that the lack of contact with microorganisms and parasites during childhood causes the immune system to over-attack harmless substances.

The easiest way to combat allergies is with antihistamines, which reduce the inflammatory response. Hookworms seem to be useful for treating allergies as well (which could also be the reason allergies are less common in developing countries where hookworms are more common), but you probably shouldn’t change your allergy to worms just yet.

Why do people get seasonal allergies? | TED-Ed


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