Allergy: Behavioral Treatment, Risk Factors, and Psychosocial Aspects
- 113 Downloads
KeywordsAllergy Attack Traffic Pollution Asthma Food Allergy Insect Bites
Allergies are a group of immune-mediated diseases characterized by excessive inflammatory responses to otherwise innocuous environmental compounds. Allergies include excessive white blood cell recruitment, due to elicitation of immunoglobulin E, upon exposure to such compounds. Allergies include allergic rhinitis, asthma, hay fever, eczema, food sensitivities, and hypersensitivities to insect bites (Kay 2000). Allergic disorders are highly prevalent, and some estimate that 25 % of children are affected by them (Torres-Borrego et al. 2008). Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include excessive sneezing, tearing, runny nose, and itching nose, throat, eyes, and ears. Symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain and tightness. Symptoms of food allergies are very heterogeneous and include swelling or tingling in the mouth and lips, swelling in other body parts, wheezing and nasal congestion, breathing problems, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, dizziness, and in rare occasions shock or fainting.
No clear consensus exists for their risk factors, but these may include genetic predisposition and exposure to pollution (e.g., diesel fuel). Several studies have proposed that psychosocial factors increase the risk of various types of allergies including asthma. Yet, many studies were cross-sectional, making the inferential validity questionable. One important research has also shown that family (parental) stress synergistically interacts with exposure to traffic pollution in prospectively predicting new onset of asthma: the effects of pollution on asthma onset were stronger and significant only in children with parental stress (Shankardass et al. 2009). Furthermore, allergies have profound effects on patients’ physical, psychological, and social dimensions of quality of life.
A few meta-analyses were conducted testing the overall effects of psychological interventions on asthma. While some promising effects emerged on medication needs, other effects were weaker, and study quality and heterogeneity did not enable to draw firm conclusions (Yorke et al. 2007). Clearly, the role of psychosocial factors in allergies is an important domain for further investigation, given the high prevalence and impact of such health problems, and the findings relating psychosocial factors with allergy onset.
References and Further Readings
- Shankardass, K., McConnell, R., Jerrett, M., Milam, J., Richardson, J., & Berhane, K. (2009). Parental stress increases the effect of traffic-related air pollution on childhood asthma incidence. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106, 12406–12411.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar