- Recent research on a small number of patients gives a tantalizing hint that at least some people who suffer from peanut allergy might have their condition ameliorated by exposure to a mild dose of peanuts.
- A recent television news report marveled at the apparently surprising revelation that a large farm family, flourishing in overall good health and free of flu, might have benefited from its constant exposure on the farm to a variety of livestock, plants, germs and allergens.
What's surprising to me is that these reports should be considered news. I thought it was fairly common knowledge since at least the days of Edward Jenner that a resistance to a disease can in many cases be developed by exposure to mild or altered forms of that same virus/bacteria.
It took somewhat longer for us to begin to understand allergies in the same way. Nevertheless, by the 1960s the idea of taking injections to counter a range of allergens was in full-blown fad mode. (I took some myself, for allergies to grass and pollens; they had little effect on me but reportedly did a lot of good for some people.)
Then came some kind of reversal. On the allergy side, doctors apparently began advising people to keep their infants away from all allergens, while on the contagious disease front, people began widely to believe (incorrectly) that immunization can cause disease.
The field of medicine is not immune to an occasional sneeze of fad or fashion. With luck, we may be moving back toward what seems to be a commonsense and generally effective approach on allergy.