An allergic reaction occurs when your normally intelligent immune system reacts inappropriately to something normally harmless, such as pet hair or pollen. And the symptoms aren’t just sneezing and a runny nose.
Since the onset of sensitisation occurs in childhood, allergy symptoms are most commonly observed in this age range. In fact, allergies are the most common kind of long-term illness in children. However, as adults, this does not mean we are fully out of the woods.
There are many kinds of allergies. Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, affects the nose and eyes, while eczema affects the skin. Food allergies affect the gut, skin, airways, lungs, and sometimes the whole body through the blood vessels.
According to a study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, living with a cat as a child raises your risk of having a psychotic episode in adulthood. Toxoplasmosis gondii, a common parasite found in cat feces, may be to blame for this elevated risk of mental illness, according to the study.
For decades, the link between toxoplasma gondii and psychosis has been widely argued, with some research finding a high rate of schizophrenia among persons infected with the parasite, while others have shown no link.
While the vast numbers of individuals infected with the parasite have no symptoms and may be unaware that they are sick, some people can experience mild to severe consequences. A fever or respiratory issues are two examples.
Children who grow up in houses with cats are more likely to develop psychological illnesses as adults, according to previous research.
To get to the bottom of the problem, the new study’s authors spoke with 2,206 adults in downtown Montreal about their memories of childhood cats and, if any, past experiences with psychotic episodes. Many additional risk factors for psychosis, including smoking and moving as a child were also asked.
“Owning cats in childhood was associated with the expression of greater psychosis in adulthood, but only in the presence of certain factors,” said the authors.
Specifically, they observed an elevated incidence of psychosis among men who had stray cats as children, but not in women who had cats as children.
It’s worth noting that the researchers didn’t look for T. gondii antibodies in the participants’ blood, so they couldn’t say whether the higher risk was due to the parasite.
However, their findings imply that this is the case, as cats can only become infected with the parasite by hunting infected rodents, which is something that house-cats who go out far more frequently than cats who stay indoors do.
Researchers also found that having a cat does not necessarily increase the risk of psychosis, as individuals who had a history of head trauma, moved multiple times as children, and retained the cat had the highest risk of psychotic episodes.
Also, the authors couldn’t explain why only men seem to be affected, and they didn’t show any proof that T. gondii causes psychiatric disorders through a neurobiological mechanism.
However, earlier research indicates that the parasite Toxoplasma gondii may disrupt with a type of brain cell known as microglia and alter the establishment of neurological connections, which may explain how it affects the mind.
Overall, the link between cat ownership and psychosis is unclear, though anyone concerned about the parasite’s risk can reduce their chances of infection by carefully washing their hands after cleaning their cat’s sand tray.
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