Bill Harvey: I wish I could fly

I have been thinking about allergies this week.

My recent reacquaintance with baby-sitting reminded me of the years spent sterilising various teats and bottles in Milton cleaner before feeding one of my progenies. I was always a little puzzled as to how effective sterilisation really was. Whenever I held the bottle to the infant, it invariably was rubbed around their non-sterile face and many a pacifier dummy ended up on the floor before a quick wipe and insertion.

Early exposure to pathogens can help develop immunity. Allergy is a hypersensitivity response. It would seem there is a balance here, and I am not alone in wondering whether the recent rise in allergies of many kinds might have some link with our zeal in sterilising every surface in the home around young children.

Recent reports about acrylate allergy are interesting. It seems that some widely used nail gel varnishes require exposure to a specific UV light for bonding to the underlying nail polish. If the wrong lamp is used, then non-bonded acrylates can seep into surrounding finger tissues and cause a toxic response. Of more significance is the finding that this also sets up a long-lasting allergy to acrylates and the first cases of allergic response to intraocular lenses are coming to light. With such widespread uptake of manicures in the last decade, this is a problem worth looking out for in years to come.

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