Hunt for Allergy Clues at Bronx Zoo
could zoos and allergies possibly have in common? According to
Linda Corcoran of the Wildlife Conversation Society, zoos are
educational places that also provide fun for children. Therefore,
what better place to find out about allergies. If you turn kids
into detectives as part of a Detective Weekend program, they can
find allergy clues everywhere. The Detective Program has visited
14 zoos around the United States in the last two years, touching
thousands of lives in a surprisingly significant way.
significant, because allergies are a serious, ever-growing problem,"
said Dr. Roberto Zambon, an internist at St. Luke's- Roosevelt
Hospital who's affiliated with the project. "In fact, an estimated
41 million Americans suffer from the condition. Allergies cost
U.S. companies more than $250 million last year. And amazingly
we, as a people, are still exceedingly uninformed about it."
What are allergies? "They are a specific immunologic reaction
- a heightened sensitivity, if you will — to a normally
harmless substance that does not bother most people," Dr.
Zambon said. "It can cause watery eyes, sneezing, even sinus
congestion for weeks at a time." Why do people develop allergies?
"It's not yet fully understood, but heredity may very well
be a factor," said the doctor. Scientists believe that people
inherit a tendency to be allergic, although not to any specific
allergen. "If one parent is allergic, a child has a 25 per
cent chance to develop allergies," Dr. Zambon said. "If
both parents have allergies, the chances rise to 75 per cent."
As part of the "Be a Zyrtec Detective" program, children received
a "detective kit" upon entering the zoo, complete with a clue
map. As they toured through the various exciting attractions,
including the monkeys, birds, and tigers, they sought out clue
signs with allergy-related riddles. After all three clues had
been solved, the letters received from each clue provided the
answer to the final word jumble. Then the completed clue cards
were redeemed for a prize at the Detective Zone, including a picture
with Bunches - a friendly grape-colored ape character that appeared
to be a close relative of Barney.
The Detective Zone also included a "detective debriefing area"
where kids, and their parents, could ask Dr. Zambon all kinds
of information about allergies. A computer kiosk was even available
to help adults identify their particular allergy profile. People
with allergies are often sensitive to more than one substance.
The most common ones are seasonal outdoor allergens like tree,
grass, and weed pollen, and year-round indoor allergens such as
dust particles, animal dander, and mold.
can be harder to treat than others," Dr. Zambon said. "For allergy
sufferers, understanding their unique profile can help the doctor
select the treatment that works best." Of course, as with so many
other illnesses, prevention may be the best medicine. "The key
to managing your allergies and your kids' allergies is preventing
a flare-up before the symptoms intensify," Dr. Zambon said.
The kid detectives learned that, in order to avoid allergy flare-ups,
allergy-proofing the home and compliance with prescription medications
are the best methods. "All signs point to the pollen level being
extremely high, maybe the highest ever in fact, this year," Dr.
Zambon said. "So what a great time this is for children to learn
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