Causes of allergies - Why am I allergic?

There are numerous theories about the development of allergies and yet the question of "why" cannot be answered across the board. One thing is certain: most allergies are triggered by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Our medical team clarifies and gives you helpful tips for allergy prevention!

1. Genetic Factors

In so-called genome-wide association studies, science has already been able to decipher quite a few gene variants that promote the development of allergies. These genes affect the mechanism of immune cells and also, for example, the function of skin and mucous membranes.1.

If one parent is allergic, the likelihood that the child will also develop allergies during his or her lifetime is significantly increased. If two parents have allergic disease, 40%-60% of children are also affected. If both parents have the same allergic disease, the probability that the child will also fall ill with an allergy is even 60-80%. 2

2. Environmental Factors

So do genes always determine whether you become an allergy sufferer? Not at all!

Twin studies show that external factors are also decisive in the development of allergic diseases. For example, if one twin has asthma, the second twin often has the same disease, but not always (despite the same DNA).

Thus, many environmental factors also significantly influence the development of allergies:

  • Numerous studies showed that there is a lower incidence of allergic diseases in rural areas compared to cities.
  • Children of large families and children attending childcare units show a lower incidence of allergies. The so-called "hygiene hypothesis" states that low contact with bacterial, parasitic and viral pathogens in childhood may favor the development of immunological diseases such as allergy.
  • Other environmental risk factors, such as air pollution in urban areas, can make pollen more aggressive and promote the development of allergic diseases. Are there more allergies today than 20 years ago? Allergic diseases are a widespread health problem that has increased sharply since the 1970s. In the last decade, the number of allergy sufferers then stabilized at a high level. Current data from the Robert Koch Institute's health monitoring show that up to 30% of the population is affected today.

Are there more allergies today than 20 years ago?

Allergic diseases are a widespread health problem that has increased sharply since the 1970s. In the last decade, the number of allergy sufferers then stabilized at a high level. Current data from the Robert Koch Institute's health monitoring show that up to 30% of the population is affected today.

9 tips for allergy prevention in children3.

  • Eat a balanced, varied and nutritious diet while pregnant - omitting food groups during pregnancy is not recommended.
  • If possible, breastfeed exclusively for the first 4 to 6 months.
  • Begin introducing complementary foods between 5 and 7 months.
  • Let your baby try as many different foods as possible (even if your child has a predisposition to allergies).
  • Avoid overweight in your child.
  • Cow's milk should be given only in moderation during the 1st year of life.
  • Vaccinate your child according to schedule - there are no scientific studies that show that vaccinations promote the development of allergies.
  • Avoid tobacco smoke in the child's presence.
  • Don't overdo hygiene with your baby and toddler. Contact with normal germs can reduce the risk of allergy.
More tips for allergy sufferers

Approved

This article has been reviewed by unserem Medical-Team for accuracy of content.

Sources:

  • 1 Bonnelykke K et al., 2015: Genetics of allergy and allergic sensitization: common variants, rare mutations. Current opinion in immunology 36: 115-126

  • 2 Informationen des Allergieinformationsdienst (HelmholtzZentrum München)

  • 3 AWMF Leitlinie zur Allergieprävention

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