Question about allergic reactions.

Steve Sanyal sanyal at
Thu Oct 1 09:04:16 EST 1998

I observed an interesting change to one of my allergies recently, and in
light of a seminar by prominent University of Toronto immunologist Tak Mak,
I am trying to deduce whether my assessment as to why it has occurred is a
correct one.

I am very allergic to cats, and from what I understand, this allergy is to
the cat-saliva, which is all over their fur, and often all over a cat
owner's house.

My allergic reaction consists of:
- Very itchy throat and eyes.
- Very runny nose.
- Lots of sneezing.

At a lecture given by Dr. Mak about a year ago, someone asked him about
common allergies, as to why they occur.  My understanding of Dr. Mak's
response was that in countries like Canada, it is generally so "clean" in
terms of harmful infectious diseases floating around in the air, that our
immune systems have nothing better to do, so they end up having unusually
sensitive responses to non-harmful substances.

However, from June, 1997, to April 1998, I spent a year in China, where
there are tons of respiratory infections caused by unsanitary conditions and
such practices as excessive public spitting.  I found that while I was in
China, when I would get a cold, it simply would not go away.  Most foreign
students I knew noticed the exact same thing.

When I returned to Canada, I was surprised that I did not display any
allergic symptoms when I was exposed to cats.  I was rather surprised by
this, and I figured that the reason for it was that my immune system was
still readjusting, and perhaps even fighting off any leftovers from Asia.

However, it has now been 6 months since I returned and I have begun to
redisplay the exact same symptoms again, with the exact same severity,
whereas under similar circumstances, I was not displaying them at all only a
month ago.

Does my assessment about why this phenomenon has occured seem plausible, or
can anyone offer other answers?


Steve Sanyal

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