The natural history of disease refers to the progression of a disease process in an individual over time, in the absence of treatment. In asthma and allergies, the natural history tends to begin with dry skin and follow this course:
Wheezing may start early in life and be related to viral infections but can progress into asthma.
The natural history of allergic diseases is referred to as the “atopic march” or the “allergic march.” Allergic diseases can have a big negative impact on a person’s quality of life and can be serious and even life-threatening. So, is there anything we can do to stop the march from progressing?
Primary prevention is an intervention designed to stop the development of disease before it starts. It aims to reduce the chance of developing a disease.
There is some evidence the atopic march is preventable. Steps include:
- Protecting a baby’s skin very well from birth with moisturizers or petrolatum ointment may reduce the risk of atopic dermatitis (eczema)
- Exposing infants to peanut powder or diluted peanut butter between 4 and 6 months old can reduce the risk of peanut allergy by up to 80%
- Avoiding exposure to tobacco smoke, pollution and certain viruses may help prevent the development of asthma
Researchers continue to study different ways we can prevent the development of eczema, allergies and asthma.
If you or your child develop one or more allergic conditions, it is important to have a plan for treatment, as well as a plan to reduce exposure to your allergens and triggers. Work with your doctor to make a treatment plan.