Modern technology has made an enormous impact on how we do things every day, from how we travel to how we interact with one another. New technologies have changed (and are working on changing) how we treat and manage allergies as well; everything from seasonal allergies to pet and food allergies and more.
How Allergens Work
An allergen is simply an antigen that causes the immune system to react; thus triggering the “allergic” reaction. The body perceives the antigen as a threat and activates an immune response to remove the threat. Polluted air, foods, plants and pollen, and even substances such as latex can cause allergic reactions in humans.
An Entire Branch of Medicine
Immunology is the study of the body’s immune system and includes everything from treating autoimmune deficiencies and diseases to managing allergies. The study of allergens and how they affect our bodies has given rise to many technologies, with researchers working to better understand the complexity of our immune system in order to make those suffering from allergies more comfortable, or alternatively, completely immune.
Technology: The Old and the New
Some of our allergy treatment and management technologies have been around for decades, and others are still in development. Researchers are working toward the complete removal of pet allergies through vaccines and even new technologies that could completely remove allergens and pollutants from the air.
Considered the “staple” of allergy management, air purifiers come in different varieties, including HEPA air purifiers and UV purifiers. HEPA purifiers use filters made from very thin but dense glass fibers that trap pollutants. These filters are extremely effective and are the most popular form of air purifiers. The second variety, the UV purifiers, are slightly less widely used but are dependant on UV rays to destroy the bacteria and irritants in the air. These are used more in a professional setting, such as hospitals and doctor’s offices.
“Hypoallergenic” is not a medical term but instead refers to a type of fabric that contains fibers that are woven tightly enough to not hold air pollutants and allergens. Normal bedding has spaces between fibers, allowing irritants to become trapped and create uncomfortable sleeping conditions. This simple, yet effective technology has provided an important aspect of allergy management in the home.
Cold Plasma Technology
An emerging technology using “cold plasma”, which is a form of ionized gas, is showing great promise in the way of treating polluted air. Its recently been discovered that cold plasma, when introduced to an airborne allergen or pollutant, has an incredible decontamination effect. This technology is still in its developmental stages, but could completely revolutionize the way air purifiers work in homes, businesses, hospitals, and more. This technology could prove particularly effective in treating seasonal allergies.
Animal Allergy Vaccines
Pets are an essential part of millions of homes, yet sadly, about 15% of Americans are actually allergic to dogs and cats, or one or the other. Most asthmatic people are allergic as well, the pet dander causing asthma symptoms to flare up and cause irritation and even asthma attacks. Animal allergy vaccines have been in the works since around 2011 when researchers at McMaster University in Canada performed the first clinical trials of a “cat vaccine”. Although the clinical trials failed, the researchers were able to gather much-needed information about the allergen in cat dander, and are working still to make a vaccine that would be widely available to pet owners.
Food Allergen Detection
Food allergies are as widespread as seasonal allergies, affecting nearly 15 million Americans. Peanuts, shellfish, and even gluten can cause an immune response in adults and children alike. Graduate students at MIT’s Sloan School of Management created a portable technology that allows its users to insert small morsels of food into it in order to detect allergens such as gluten. Restaurants and even food processing companies are often unable to completely detect and remove potential allergens from their foods, not to mention there’s a serious risk in any food production environment for cross-contamination from other equipment. The portable detection device could mean that accidentally ingestion of food allergens could be eliminated completely.
What Does the Future Hold For Allergy Treatment Technology?
Allergy treatment has experienced many breakthroughs via innovative technology, nd can expect many more advancements in the coming decades. Cold plasma and pet vaccines are currently in their trial periods, with much more research required before they can be used effectively, but each of these technologies shows great promise. Food allergy treatment is experiencing a boom in cellular level research, with doctors working to isolate and eliminate immune responses to certain proteins in foods. Eventually, food allergies could be wiped out altogether. Technology such as the gluten detector device, and many more like it that detect allergens such as peanuts and soy, have given the consumer more control over the allergens in their foods. We can expect more of these devices with the increase in epinephrine injector prices.
Whether you suffer from seasonal allergies, pet allergies, or food allergies, modern technology has something to offer each in terms of treatment and management. As we learn more about our bodies and how the immune system works, we gain an advantage over the allergies that cause so many of us discomfort in our daily lives.