Allergies Are On the Rise, and Scientists Have a Good Idea Why

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If it seems like everyone around you is constantly sneezing and sniffling, it might be because allergies are on the rise. As New Scientist reports, several studies seem to indicate this is an ongoing trend. While allergies were rare before the mid-20th century, they’re now a common occurrence in children and adults alike. According to the Food Allergy Research and Education Organization, 15 million people in the U.S. have a food allergy.

To make matters worse, some of the fastest-developing countries are seeing a steady increase in allergies, especially in China. Asthma rates among children in Shanghai rose from 2 percent to 10 percent between 1990 and 2011.

So what exactly is at play here? Scientists think the rise in allergies has much to do with how drastically our lifestyles have changed in the last century. In particular, many modern people spend most of their days—and lives—indoors, which wasn’t always the norm. Spending time outdoors at an early age helps expose you to certain microbes “that have helped hone the human immune system for millennia,” New Scientist notes.

For that reason, children who grow up on farms are less likely to develop allergies. However, scientists still don’t understand exactly how these microbes help prevent our immune system from producing Immunoglobulin E, which is released in response to an allergen coming into contact with the body.

Fortunately, there are ways to keep your allergies under control, even if you can't prevent them entirely. Showering before you sleep, using an air purifier, and keeping pets off your bed are just a few of the quick tips you can try.

[h/t New Scientist]

Debunking 6 Common Home Remedies That Aren't Worth Trying

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iStock

While it’s never fun—or cheap—to go to the doctor, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and make an appointment. While you may read a slew of articles online during your middle-of-the-night WebMD binge, the “natural” home remedies that some blogs swear by are often at best no better than placebos, and at worst actively harmful.

A new video from SciShow explores several home “remedies” that don’t actually help treat common medical issues. The nine-minute video debunks some of the "natural" treatments that people often cite as cures for ailments as benign as allergies or as serious as poisoning. Spoiler: Most of them have no scientific basis.

If, for instance, you’ve ever heard the idea that local honey can act as an allergy cure, put down the spoon. Despite being delicious, honey doesn’t provide enough exposure to the allergens that cause those sniffles and itches to help. When your seasonal allergies hit, take medication or visit an allergist instead.

How about the old custom of putting butter on a burn? Unsurprisingly, fatty foodstuffs don’t make great wound treatments. While people used to believe that burns shouldn’t be exposed to air, oily substances like butter will actually trap heat from your burn, making it worse. The key to treating a burn is cooling it off. You want to stick it in cool water, not warm butter.

If you are unlucky enough to catch head lice, you're probably willing to try whatever you can get your hands on to destroy the little critters. But that pricey medicated shampoo really is the best way to go. Scientists have found that washing your hair with vinegar isn’t the answer. Researchers have found that lice nesting in hair aren’t affected by vinegar, even when the hair in question is soaked for 8 hours.

Some of these home remedies seem a little out-there, but others are understandable. Ipecac syrup once had a place on every pharmacy shelf as a method of treating people who ingested poison. The syrup is poisonous itself, and it makes you vomit—but vomiting isn’t a guarantee that your body has rid itself of all the toxins, and it might just make it harder for your doctor to diagnose what’s going on. Poison Control no longer recommends keeping ipecac syrup on hand, and U.S. manufacturers stopped making it in 2010.

Tilting your head back to staunch a nosebleed is yet another common treatment that can backfire on you. Tilting your head back does stop the blood from flowing from your nose. But it means that your blood will flow down your throat instead of out your nose. So instead of getting a towel bloody, you put yourself at risk of choking on your own blood.

The last “remedy” SciShow tackles isn’t directly harmful, but it won’t help, either. Some people recommend treating pink eye by using warm chamomile tea bags as eye compresses. While chamomile does have some anti-inflammatory properties, there’s no evidence that chamomile is at all effective in treating pink eye. Draping warm tea bags over your eyes probably won’t harm you, and in fact, the heat may relieve some pain, but the tea itself isn’t going to cure you.

Dive into the facts behind these “remedies” in the video below. And remember: when in doubt, always go to the doctor.

[h/t Digg]

The U.S. State With the Most Psychopaths Is …

Anthony Perkins stars in Psycho (1960)
Anthony Perkins stars in Psycho (1960)
Paramount Pictures

Quaint, quiet Connecticut—home of the Frisbee and the first speed-limit law—is also apparently home to the most Norman Bates types. A recent study spotted by Quartz ranked each U.S. state by the number of psychopaths who are estimated to be living there, and the results may surprise you.

Following Connecticut, the top five states by psychopathy are California, New Jersey, New York, and Wyoming (New York and Wyoming tied). The least psychopathic state, on the other hand, is wild and wonderful West Virginia.

Psychopathy on its own is not a clinical diagnosis. Rather, it's a subset of antisocial personality disorder, whose symptoms include egocentrism, manipulativeness, impulsivity, lack of remorse, and an inability to form intimate relationships, just to name a few.

The study, posted on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN), partly drew data from previous research on the “big five” personality traits—Extroversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness to Experience—and their prevalence in each state [PDF]. Ryan Murphy, the study's author, said there's a correlation between these personality traits and some of the traits associated with psychopathy—namely boldness, meanness, and disinhibition.

“Boldness corresponds to low neuroticism and high extraversion, meanness corresponds to low agreeableness, and disinhibition corresponds to low conscientiousness,” Murphy told Quartz. In the earlier study of personality scores by state, Connecticut showed high levels of extraversion and comparatively low levels of conscientiousness.

The District of Columbia was also taken into consideration and showed higher levels of psychopathy than any state in the country. However, Murphy said this isn’t a fair representation because D.C. is an urban area and cannot be accurately compared to a larger, more geographically diverse region.

Although D.C. was excluded from the final ranking, Murphy said there might be something to the popular belief that politicians are more likely to be psychopaths: “The presence of psychopaths in [the] District of Columbia is consistent with the conjecture found in [my research] that psychopaths are likely to be effective in the political sphere.”

It must be noted, though, that these findings have only recently been pre-published and are not yet peer-reviewed.

Here’s how the 48 contiguous states (excluding Hawaii and Alaska) ranked for psychopathy:

1. Connecticut
2. California
3. New Jersey
4. & 5. New York / Wyoming (tied)
6. Maine
7. Wisconsin
8. Nevada
9. Illinois
10. Virginia
11. Maryland
12. South Dakota
13. Delaware
14. Massachusetts
15. Arizona
16. Florida
17. Iowa
18. Colorado
19. Texas
20. Ohio
21. Utah
22. Arkansas
23. Idaho
24. North Dakota
25. Michigan
26. Alabama
27. Pennsylvania
28. Rhode Island
29. Louisiana
30. Kansas
31. Georgia
32. Minnesota
33. Missouri
34. Washington
35. Kentucky
36. Nebraska
37. South Carolina
38. New Hampshire
39. Oregon
40. Indiana
41. Mississippi
42. Montana
43. Oklahoma
44. New Mexico
45. North Carolina
46. Tennessee
47. Vermont
48. West Virginia

[h/t Quartz]

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