Published April 26, 2012
It’s that time of year – allergy season. Millions of people sensitive to ragweed, trees and grass have to bust out the tissues in order to deal with their coughing and sneezing.
And studies have shown this year’s allergy symptoms are more severe, due to the mild winter. [Allergy season arrives early this year]
But researchers from Yale have found that seasonal allergies may actually be a sign of a strong immune system, protecting the body against environmental toxins that are much more harmful than pollen.
There are different types of immune responses to combat a variety of pathogens. In order to fight viruses and bacteria, type 1 immunity involves directly killing pathogens or infections.
The study focused on type 2 immunity, which involves stimulating the body’s T cells and antibodies into action to battle external environmental toxins. What makes this kind of response such a nuisance is that it can go into “overdrive” when triggered by environmental antigens like pollen.
The scientists argue that despite this sometimes overactive response, type 2 immunity is actually good for the body and has evolved over time to protect humans from at least four different environmental trials – parasites, noxious chemicals, animal venoms, and environmental irritants.