Happy First Day of Spring, Tumblr!
What better way to celebrate than to **ACHOO!!**….wait, what were we saying?
Ah, spring! Grass growing, flowers blooming, trees growing new leaves, but if you get allergies, this explosion of new life probably inspires more dread than joy.
Step outside, and within minutes, you’re sneezing and congested. Your nose is running, your eyes are swollen and watery, your throat is itchy. For you and millions of others, it’s seasonal allergy time. So what’s behind this onslaught of mucus?
The answer lies within you. It’s your immune system. Seasonal allergies, also called hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, are a hypersensitive immune response to something that’s not actually harmful. Pollen from trees and grass, and mold spores from tiny fungi find their way into your mucous membranes and your body attacks these innocuous travelers the same way it would infectious bacteria.
The immune system has a memory. When a foreign substance gets tagged as threatening, white blood cells produce customized antibodies that will recognize the offender the next time around. They then promptly recruit the body’s defense team. But sometimes, the immune system accidentally discriminates against harmless substances, like pollen. When it wafts in again, antibodies on the surface of white blood cells recognize it and latch on.
This triggers the cell to release inflammatory chemicals, like histamine, which stimulate nerve cells, and cause blood vessels in the mucous membranes to swell and leak fluid. In other words, itchiness, sneezing, congestion, and a runny nose.
Allergies usually, but not always, show up for the first time during childhood. But why do some people get allergies and others don’t? Allergies tend to run in families, so genetics may be one culprit. In fact, errors in a gene that helps regulate the immune system are associated with higher rates of allergies. The environment you grow up in matters, too. Being exposed to an allergen as a baby makes you less likely to actually develop an allergy to it. People who grow up on farms, in big families, and in the developing world also tend to have fewer allergies, although there are plenty of exceptions, partly thanks to genetics. One theory is that as children, they encounter more of the microbes and parasites that co-evolved with traditional hunter-gatherer societies.
Called the hygiene hypothesis, the idea is that when the immune system isn’t exposed to the familiar cast of microbes, it’ll keep itself busy mounting defenses against harmless substances, like pollen. Another theory is that an immune system toughened up by a barrage of pathogens is less likely to overreact to allergens. Pollen is a common offender, just because we encounter so much of it, but there’s a long list of substances: dust, animal dander, insect venom, medications, certain foods, that can send your immune system into overdrive. Some of these reactions can be scary. An allergy can develop into full-blown anaphylaxis, which typically brings on severe swelling, shortness of breath, and very low blood pressure. It can be deadly.
But as we who suffer from seasonal allergies know, even non-life threatening allergy symptoms can make you miserable. So what can you do about it? Medications can help reduce the symptoms. The most common ones keep histamines from binding to your cells. These antihistamines stop the inflammation response. Steroids can help dial down the immune system. Another more permanent option is immunotherapy. Deliberate, controlled exposure to gradually increasing amounts of an allergen can teach the immune system that it isn’t dangerous after all.
Of course, you can always just wait your seasonal allergies out. The spring pollen onslaught dwindles by mid-summer…just in time for ragweed season!
From the TED-Ed Lesson Why do people have seasonal allergies? - Eleanor Nelsen
Animation by TED-Ed
Yes it is here!
Mar 21, 2018 15:45
Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) was launched in May of 2012. Ever since then, it’s been recognized on the third Thursday of May every year. Its purpose is to increase awareness about the digital options people with disabilities have. This is in hopes of generating innovative digital solutions to increase their ease of mobility. Virtual Reality (VR) technology has a strong potential for making learning easier for disabled men, women and children.
An Equal Playing Field
Distance learning is evolving at a rapid rate, and VR technology is the platform of choice for many educational companies. For example, ENGAGE is a virtual reality education and training platform that deeply immerses each student and teacher into their topic of study. The platform was built with the idea of helping the disabled learn just as effectively as those who are not disabled. In this platform, and similar ones, each student has an equal opportunity to learn and not feel hindered.
Navigating Virtual Worlds
For the physically challenged, a world of opportunities now exists to learn things they could have never learned before. VR technology is making it possible for those confined to wheelchairs to take their time learning how to get around their cities. They can now do this in a virtual world, while in the comfort of their living rooms. Or they can take part in sports activities that they never could have without VR technology. The wheelchair confined can learn about surfing sitting in their wheelchairs while standing up on their skateboards in the virtual world.
Increasing Attention Levels
Children, as well as adults with moderate to severe Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), can learn with the help of these VR platforms. The learning environments are so stimulating and engaging, those with ADHD tend to remain engaged throughout the lesson and retain more of what they have learned. The VR headsets also cover their frame of view, cutting out distractions from the physical world. Autistic children can learn how to connect with others socially with the help of VR environments specially created for their individual needs.
The fact that these VR applications can be used in familiar environments is an added plus. While most VR headsets are out of many people’s financial reach, more affordable options, such as Google Cardboard, are compatible with smartphones and are much more affordable.
This blog was originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.
Feb 12, 2020 18:43
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