Allergies such as peanut allergy and hay fever make millions of us miserable, but scientists aren’t even sure why they exist. Carl Zimmer talks to a master immunologist with a controversial answer.
For me, it was hornets.
One summer afternoon when I was 12, I ran into an overgrown field near a friend’s house and kicked a hornet nest the size of a football. An angry squadron of insects clamped onto my leg; their stings felt like scorching needles. I swatted the hornets away and ran for help, but within minutes I realised something else was happening. A constellation of pink stars had appeared around the stings. The hives swelled, and new ones began appearing farther up my legs. I was having an allergic reaction.
My friend’s mother gave me antihistamines and loaded me into her van. We set out for the county hospital, my dread growing as we drove.… Read the rest