North of Toronto, Ontario, a mother is fighting to have oak trees removed from a park next to where her daughter goes to school because of an allergy concern..
The Vaughan mother is worried the acorns from the trees could come into contact with her daughter, who is in Grade 8, and cause her to go into allergic shock.
Allergists say the nuts would have to be ingested to cause a health problem.
Allergy problems have doubled over the last 20 years. One study has found peanut allergies to be more of a problem among children in well-to-do families.
Claudius, emperor of Rome, had a son who didn’t become emperor, possibly because of his allergy problem.
Even pop star Justin Beiber has allergies, as you can see here.
Allergies are nothing new. They’ve been recorded historically for thousands of years.
The earliest record of an allergic reaction is the death of King Menses of Egypt sometime around 3640 and 3300 BCE (or BC if you’re old school). He was killed by a wasp sting – no ‘epi-pens’ back then.
The Roman philosopher, Lucretius (99 BCE to 53 BCE) who noticed some people’s problems with common things said “what is food for some may be fierce poisons for others”.
Claudius (10 BCE to 54 CE), the Roman emperor and subject of the great British television series I Claudius, had a son, Britannicus, who was allergic to horses. He “would develop a rash and his eyes swelled to the extent that he could not see where he was going” according to Seneca.
This allergy affected more than just Britannicus’ health. Since he couldn’t ride at the head of the young patricians, Claudius’ adopted son had that high profile position. Britannicus never became emperor, but the adopted son – Nero – did.
Sir Thomas More described how King Richard III used his allergy to strawberries to arrange for the death of Lord William Hastings – a judicial murder.
At a Friday-morning council meeting, Richard smiled at Bishop Morton saying,” My lord, you have very good strawberries at your garden in Holborn; I require you, let us have a mess of them.”
(Seriously? “Let us have a mess of them?” But golly, aren’t you allergic?)
Shortly after their lunch, with strawberries, Richard had a meeting with Hastings. During the meeting, not surprisingly, he developed acute urticaria or hives. He accused Hastings of putting a spell on him and that was it for Hastings.
By the 1800s, allergies had come to the ah-ah-ah-choo… attention of modern science. The ever popular hay fever, which has nothing to do with hay or fever, was described in 1819 by Dr. John Bostock.
In 1869, Charles Blakely applied pollen to a break in his skin to determine if he was allergic. He was. That method is still used today to test for allergies.
Race ahead to 1902 when Paul Portier and Charles Richet coined the word ‘anaphylaxis’ while researching immunizations and spotted life-threatening responses to medications and protein substances. It happens fast and can cause vomiting, tissue swelling, cramps, drops in blood pressure and loss of consciousness. It was probably what killed old Menses. Some of the common causes are penicillin, insect stings, tree nuts, peanuts and shellfish.
In 1906 Austrian Pediatrician Clemens von Pirquet used the word ‘allergy’ to describe non-disease related symptoms that some diphtheria patients developed when treated with a horse serum antitoxin.
By 1911-1914 John Freeman and Leonard Noon nudged science towards immunotherapy or allergy shots. This consists of injecting the sufferer with small amounts of whatever bothers them until they build up a tolerance. (This also works sometimes with cool jazz and rap music.)
Daniel Bovet synthesized the first antihistamine drug in 1937. Antihistamines can block histamine and also protect against some of the symptoms of anaphylaxis.
In 1948, Philip Hench and Edward Kendall found corticosteroids, which was key in the treatment of asthma and both immediate and delayed allergic reactions. They are still used today.
Then in 1953 Geoff West and James Riley discovered the mast cell granule was the major source of histamine in the body, through research on a long time subject, a 10 year-old cocker spaniel named Judy. Judy, who had a mast cell tumour, had the highest histamine content ever recorded. Judy, Judy, Judy!
Dr. Kimishige Ishizaka and his wife, Teruko, discovered an antibody class in 1966, a discovery regarded as a major breakthrough in understanding allergies.
In 1982, Professor Bengt Samuelsson was awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine (with two other scientists) for finding the cause of “slow reacting substance of anaphylaxis” called leukotrienes.
This field has grown enormously since those days. Between 1981 and 1995 about three thousand papers per year were published that specifically used the expression “prostaglandins,” or related terms such as “prostacyclins,” “leukotrienes,” and “thromboxanes,” in their labels and titles.
For more information on allergies, click here.