Russ Ewell

Russ Ewell

Palo Alto, CA, United States

Russ Ewell runs two technology-focused companies, is an author, a preacher, and is a disability advocate.

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About the author

Russ Ewell is the founder of HTG, E-Soccer, and Digital Scribbler Inc. His work focuses on using technology to overcome human limits.
Christian (Non-Fiction)

Latest blog posts from Tumblr - Russ Ewell

Allergy Season Explained


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!

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Mar 21, 2018 15:45

Latest blog posts from Wordpress - Russ Ewell

How the Pandemic Has Hurt Early Intervention

For many special needs students, early intervention is a key part of providing assistance. By giving children accommodations and therapy at an early age, they get the tools they need to continue growing and advancing. Unfortunately, many child therapists worry that the COVID-19 crisis may make early intervention more challenging. There are a few unique factors that may keep children from getting the diagnosis and care they need.

Teletherapy Doesn’t Address Unique Needs of Many Families

Most therapists have had to put an end to in-person visits for the time being. Early intervention experts are continuing to help their clients with the use of teletherapy, however, this can be challenging. Some children do not respond well to voice instructions and televised body language. Instead, they need physical contact and hands-on therapy to be engaged. Without their regular therapy sessions, many therapists worry that patients are regressing or falling behind in progress.

Professionals Who Can Spot Warning Signs Are Not Seeing Children Now

In many cases, it is not a parent who first decides a child needs testing and treatment. Parents are often not trained to recognize early warning signs, which can be very subtle. Often, symptoms go away when a child is in a familiar environment, so it may be hard for a parent to notice things like the socializing challenges present in autism spectrum disorders. Instead, it is often pediatricians and school teachers who recommend that a parent see a specialist. With many families staying at home, they are not interacting with experts who could refer them to get help. Brighton, an Early Childhood Intervention agency reports that their number of monthly referrals has dropped from around 350 to below 100.

Government Funding May Be on the Decline

Most early intervention programs are at least partially funded by the government. However, most departments calculate the amount of funding a clinic receives by looking at the number of patients in the previous year. With 2020 referrals so low, many therapists are left worrying their budget will be slashed in the upcoming year. Furthermore, available funds may be used for COVID-19 business relief efforts instead of childhood care. This may make it even harder to provide care to at-risk families.

Originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.

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Oct 19, 2020 19:07