Tag: allergies

The Upside of Allergies: Fewer Brain Tumors (Maybe)

By Patrick Morgan | February 8, 2011 11:18 am

The next time you sneeze at cat dander or suffer through a yearly dose of hay fever, you might want to thank your immune system: scientists have discovered that people with allergies are less likely to contract brain tumors.

For the study, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, researchers surveyed patients with glioma, a common type of brain and spinal tumor. As Science News reports:

Several teams had previously explored the link between allergies and glioma, says UIC epidemiologist Bridget McCarthy, who led the study. Her team set out to confirm these results, cobbling together a wide list of variables. The researchers quizzed about 1,000 hospital patients with or without cancer about their allergy histories. Of the 344 patients with high-grade glioma, about 35 percent reported having been diagnosed with one or more allergies in their lifetimes, compared with about 46 percent of the 612 cancer-free respondents. About 10 percent of high-grade tumor patients had three or more allergy diagnoses, as opposed to 22 percent of the controls. “The more allergies you have, the more protected you were,” says McCarthy, an oncologist at UIC.

Researchers don’t know for sure why this is the case, and this study only demonstrated a link between allergies and reduced glioma risk–it didn’t prove that the one causes the other. But the researchers say it’s quite plausible that people are protected by their allergies. Science News quotes Baylor Medical College oncologist Michael Scheurer:

“They have an overactive immune system, and maybe that’s been protecting them from the development of tumors,” he says.

Even more intriguing, the scientists found that those who took antihistamines to combat their allergies also had a higher chance of getting glioma. But you shouldn’t be worried if you take antihistamines or don’t have spring-time sneezes: brain tumors are rare and the study’s sample size was small. The findings do, however, back up past research findings that link overactive immune systems with decreased likelihoods of childhood leukemia, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers. So come spring-time, you better count your lucky sneezes.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons /  CDC Public Health Image

Sneezy After Sex? You Could Have Post Orgasmic Illness Syndrome

By Patrick Morgan | January 20, 2011 2:00 pm

If you experience feverish, burning-eyed orgasms, don’t rejoice–you should probably consider visiting your doctor. Scientists believe such flu-like symptoms arise when men are allergic to their own semen.

It’s called post orgasmic illness syndrome (POIS). Although the term has been around since 2002, researchers led by Marcel Waldinger, a professor of sexual psychopharmacology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, have for the first time shown that some men suffer from a semen allergy. Such men, after ejaculating, not only have burning eyes and fever-like feelings that can last for a week, but also feel as tired as post-marathon runners and have noses that run faster than Usain Bolt.

In one study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine this week, the researchers pricked the skin of 33 POIS-diagnosed men with their own diluted semen, and discovered that nearly 90 percent of them had allergic reactions as a result. As Reuters reports:

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From the Case Files: The Peanut Butter Cookie and the Lungs of Doom

By Jennifer Welsh | October 19, 2010 9:56 am

cookiesA few weeks ago we posted a NCBI ROFL story about the transplantation of a set of lungs that caused the recipient to catch the donor’s peanut allergy. While this case isn’t new, its seemingly coincidental and ironic circumstances left us with some lingering questions–plus at least one of you accused us of posting an urban legend. So we went straight to the source, Imran Khalid, the doctor who treated the patient.

“This case was as surprising to us as to anyone else,” Khalid said. “The seriousness of the issue led us to write it up and send it to a medical journal to share it with other people.”

What happened was this: A 42-year-old woman received a lung transplant from a 12-year-old boy who fell into a coma and died after a severe allergic reaction to peanuts. Seven months after transplantation, the recipient herself had a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction to a peanut butter cookie that she ate at an organ transplant support group meeting. And no, the lungs weren’t haunted.

“She was lucky that this happened in the hospital,” Khalid said. “If she was at home or in a shopping mall, by the time help would have reached her I don’t know what would have happened.”

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Crazy Pseudoscience Theory of the Day: Cell Phone Ringtone Can Cure Your Allergies!

By Smriti Rao | March 29, 2010 1:36 pm

Japanese-woman-cell-phoneAre spring allergies making you feel a little stuffed up? No problem–a small outlay of cash and a lot of faith in crackpot science should soon set you straight. Just invest in one of the new “healing ringtones” available in Japan; then the next time your phone rings, stick your cell phone close to your nose and let the ringtone work its magic.

According to Japan Ringing Tone Laboratory, each downloadable therapeutic ringtone can heal a certain ailment. From weight loss to hay fever, creator Matsumi Suzuki is confident that his ringtones can perk you up. (His previous innovation was the “Bow-lingual,” a device that he claimed could translate dog barks into human-speak.)

Explaining how a healing ringtone can fight hay fever, for example, Suzuki said the sound waves produced by the ringing phone dislodge stuck pollen in the nose, thus clearing the airway and making the allergen-crazed individual feel better.

While healing ring tones sound entertaining, it seems pretty obvious that they won’t save you a trip to the doctor. The BBC cautions:

Index, the mobile phone content provider which markets the therapeutic ring tones, admits the technology behind them is perhaps a little unproven but insists the number of downloads suggests they may be working.

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Image: iStockphoto

Are Hookworms the Next Claritin?

By Boonsri Dickinson | July 22, 2009 11:16 am

hookworm1.jpgJasper Lawrence isn’t the typical salesman: He sells parasites for $2,999. People can purchase worms through his company, Autoimmune Therapies, where customers have the choice of swallowing “a dose of whipworm, or [applying] a Band-Aide of hookworms to penetrate the skin.”

Here’s how his wormy idea developed: Lawrence had been suffering from asthma and allergies, and after years of taking prednisone he decided to try hookworms instead. He got the idea from a documentary about a researcher who became infected with hookworm during a study of why people with the parasite never seemed to suffer from asthma and allergies. Lawrence subsequently traveled to Africa and walked around barefoot until his feet were infected. ABC reports:

Within a few months, Lawrence said his asthma and allergy symptoms dissipated. He stopped prednisone. He started to exercise without worrying about an attack and, as a result, he said he lost 40 pounds.

Seeing an untapped treatment, Lawrence decided to go into business selling parasitic worms to people hoping to temper autoimmune conditions such as asthma, allergies, Crohn’s disease, colitis and inflammatory bowel disease. He even has competition. At least one other online business offers patients worm therapy—all without monitoring by the Food and Drug Administration.

Perhaps the supply of clean food and water available in industrial countries has upset the balance that humans had established with parasites for millions of years. And now, without parasites around, scientists have suggested that our immune system can no longer fully develop, which might explain why we’ve become such an allergy-ridden nation.
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MORE ABOUT: allergies, hookworm, therapy

Can Cigarettes *Decrease* the Effect of Respiratory Allergies?

By Rachel Cernansky | May 15, 2009 4:29 am

smoking_pictogram.jpgCigarette smoke is clearly bad for your health in all kinds of ways, but it just may alleviate the symptoms of allergy sufferers, according to a new study recommended by the Faculty of 1000: Biology and Medicine. Dutch researchers have found that cigarette smoke reduces allergic response by blocking mast cell activity, the key factor in the body’s immune system’s response to allergens.

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MORE ABOUT: allergies, smoking

Got Hay Fever? Try Ejaculating!

By Rachel Cernansky | April 1, 2009 5:49 pm

sneeze.jpgIt’d be a great April Fools’ science story—except it’s not a joke. A scientist in Iran says men can, um, pleasure themselves and cure hay fever all in one step: masturbate for the sake of your nostrils!

Granted, neurobiologist Sina Zarrintan hasn’t actually tested his unconventional hypothesis, but he feels confident that a well-timed ejaculation can unblock the nose and soothe irritated blood vessels.

Because the nose and genitals are both connected to the sympathetic nervous system, where certain reflexes are controlled, Zarrintan says, the constricting effect of ejaculation on the body’s blood vessels frees up the inflamed vessels of a congested nose. And… voila! A feel-good trick the whole body can enjoy.

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MORE ABOUT: allergies, ejaculation, men

Why Are Victoria's Secret Bras Causing Skin Rashes?

By Nina Bai | November 12, 2008 3:01 pm

braIn a new class action lawsuit, dozens of women are claiming that Victoria’s Secret bras have given them painful, unsightly rashes. One of the plaintiffs, Roberta Ritter of Ohio, says the company’s “Angels Secret Embrace” and “Very Sexy Extreme Me Push-Up” bras gave her persistent itchy rashes that caused severe discomfort. When Ritter’s lawyers purchased the same bra types and sent them to a lab, she claims, they tested positive for formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is considered a probable human carcinogen by the EPA and is also a known allergen. Though people often associate the chemical with embalmed specimens in jars, it is actually found in many everyday products.

“Formaldehyde is the big thing these days,” says dermatologist Susan Tillman Elliott, consulting physician to the Center for Laser Surgery in Washington D.C. “It’s been known for a zillion years that it’s the major component of most fabric finishers. It’s a major contact allergen.” Formaldehyde is often used in fabrics for permanent press, anti-cling, anti-static, anti-wrinkle, and waterproof finishes. It’s also found in cosmetics, medications, household cleaners, paints, and cigarette smoke.

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Allergy Sufferers of the World: Don't Stress, You'll Only Make It Worse

By Andrew Moseman | August 18, 2008 5:05 pm

sneezeA coughing, sniffling allergy attack can be bad enough on its own. But one thing may exacerbate allergies even more: stressing out. A team led by Jan Kiecolt-Glaser of Ohio State University found that out when they put hay fever and seasonal allergy sufferers to the test, and found that people under high stress have much stronger and longer allergic reactions than people who stay relaxed.

First, Kiecolt-Glaser and colleagues had 28 test subjects participate in fairly-low stress activities like reading aloud from a magazine, and then checked them for wheals—small swellings on the skin that are usually signs of an allergic reactions. When researchers put the same people through more stressful activities, like solving math problems in their heads or giving a speech in front of people they were told to be behavioral experts, many of the subjects’ allergy symptoms spiked.

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MORE ABOUT: allergies, asthma
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