Prevention of Allergic Diseases

  • Leena von Hertzen
  • Tari Haahtela
Part of the Allergy Frontiers book series (ALLERGY, volume 5)

Accumulating evidence indicates that an environment rich in microbes in childhood reduces the risk of developing atopic disease in later life [1]. Along with urbanization, the perpetual coexistence of environmental microorganisms with man has been severely disturbed, with unexpected consequences. It has been elegantly shown that continuous stimulation of the innate immunity cells by commensals and saprophytes is necessary for the proper development and maintenance of mucosal homeostasis [2]. Such continuous stimulation of the immune system through the skin, respiratory tract and gut is thought to activate the regulatory network, which in turn seems to be decisive in the development of tolerance and in the prevention of inflammation associated with atopic conditions and harmful Th2 responses [3, 4].

Allergy and asthma epidemic still continues in many western countries [5], whereas in some other, less affluent areas, it may have only started [6, 7]. Numerous studies have provided evidence that allergen avoidance is not the right strategy to reverse the rising trends in asthma and allergy prevalence. Avoidance of inhalant allergens is difficult, often impossible, and the results from avoidance interventions have not been encouraging [8–10]. As to food antigens, excessive avoidance in early life can be harmful and prevent or weaken the development of regulatory mechanisms. Virtually, the only possibility to reduce the allergy burden in a population is to strengthen those mechanisms that are involved in the development and maintenance of tolerance. Patients must be treated, but the strategies to reduce the allergy burden should focus on prevention and preventive treatment. In this chapter, the development of tolerance in the context of environmental factors, and the means by which allergies might be reduced at the national level are discussed.


Allergic Disease Allergy Clin Immunol House Dust Atopic Disease World Allergy Organization 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leena von Hertzen
    • 1
  • Tari Haahtela
    • 1
  1. 1.Skin and Allergy Hospital/ HUCHFinland

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