My maternal grandmother had it. My mother had it. My mother's sister has it. I have it. Atopy is defined as "The genetic tendency to develop the classic allergic diseases -- atopic dermatitis, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), and asthma. Atopy involves the capacity to produce IgeE in response to common environmental proteins such as house dustmite, grass, pollen and food allergens. From the Greek "atopos" meaning out of place."
In addition to being allergic to "common allergens," people with a heightened form of this condition often develop allergies to medicines and chemicals of all sorts, including those that are supposedly "safe," such as common ingredients in cosmetic, soap, fragrance and shampoo products.
Allergic reactions to certain foods are common, as well as reactions to pesticides used in commercial growing operations.
Atopic syndrome is a tendency for a person to be "hyperallergic," and can be fatal for those who experience a severe reaction and go into anaphylactic shock. Some years ago I suddenly developed an allergy to a medication I had taken previously with no problem and ended up in the emergency room at the hospital. They took one look at me and shuttled me right in to see the doctor, no questions asked. My face had ballooned out, I was covered in hives, and I had begun having trouble breathing. The doctor told me that if I had wait another few minutes, I would not have survived. "We caught it in time," she said, "Thanks be to God."
Insect venom is a particularly bad one for me. Even the measly mosquito leaves me with giant welts on my skin. Dermatitis is a less frequent manifestation of my particular version of Atopy, but is chronic on my scalp. I should be using an organic, mild shampoo, but it is cost prohibitive, as are the organic foods and supplements I should be taking to curb my chronic illnesses, of which atopy is just one syndrome.
Allergic reactions can come on swiftly. Several times I have experienced sudden, severe itching of the soles of my feet, rapidly followed by hives all over my body and swelling. Whole classes of medications are off limits for me. All Nsaids, such as aspirin, aceteminophen and ibuprofen, are verboten, as are sulfa drugs (a common allergy), many antibiotics, and who knows what next? The older I get, the more allergies I collect.
Atopy has a strong hereditary component. One study found that atopy increases by a factor of two with each first degree family member suffering from it. My family has hit the jackpot, with numerous members afflicted.
Having this atopic syndrome with the asthma, hay fever and dermatitis components, complicates my treatment for the chronic illnesses that I have. I can't take several arthritis medications because I am allergic to sulfa (which is related in a way I don't understand.) Even some non-allopathic remedies cause me problems, such as glucosamine condroitin because it is derived from shellfish, to which I am allergic. It goes on and on like that.
Ideally, I would be eating a completely organic, non-GMO diet and using organic cosmetic and housecleaning products, but my disability income doesn't meet my needs in this regard. I try to eat the organic items that most affect me and put up with the asthma and allergic reactions, keeping my emergency inhaler and my epi pen (epinephren shot) close at hand, but this is a less than ideal approach that leaves me with skin eruptions all over my body as a result of my body trying to eliminate the toxins, and probably is part of the dermatitis aspect of atopy.
Every time I read a news item in which the poor are being criticized for buying "gourmet" food, i.e., organic food, it makes me angry. In some areas of the country, legislators are proposing laws that would restrict the type of food that poor people could purchase with their food stamps. One of the items they want to forbid is fish. My doctor is telling me to eat more fish, like salmon and kippers that are high in Omega 3s, to combat the arthritis that I can't treat with medicine because of my allergies. Thank God I am not on food stamps!
Many disabled people have health issues that call for a chemical free diet. Personally, I have become rather fond of living, and I don't want to become one of the 5,000 people each year that die of an asthma attack. I'm going to continue to strive to purify my diet and get as much organic as I can possibly manage, and I recommend that everyone with asthma and similar issues does the same.
Silver Rose Parnell
Kuster, W.; W. Kuster, M Petersen, E. Christophers, M. Goos and W. Sterry (December 12, 2004). "A Family Study of Atopic Dermatitis". Archives of Dermatological Research (Springer Berlin / Heidelberg) (2/January, 1990); 98-102 LINK
MedicineNet.com Medicine Net
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology LINK