What is Allergy?
Allergy occurs when a person’s immune system reacts to substances in the environment that are harmless for most people. These substances are known as allergens and are found in house dust mites, pets, pollen, insects, moulds, foods and some medicines.
Atopy is the genetic (inherited) tendency to develop allergic diseases.
People with atopy are said to be atopic.
What happens when you have an allergic reaction?
When a person who is allergic to a particular allergen comes into contact with it, an allergic reaction occurs. This begins when the allergen (for example, pollen) enters the body, triggering an antibody response.
The antibodies attach themselves to special cells, called mast cells.
When the pollen comes into contact with the antibodies, the mast cells respond by releasing certain substances, one of which is called histamine.
When the release of histamine is due to an allergen, the resulting swelling and inflammation is extremely irritating and uncomfortable.
Which areas of the body may be affected?
Depending on the allergen and where it enters your body, you may experience different symptoms.
For example, pollen, when breathed in through the nose, usually causes symptoms in the nose, eyes, sinuses and throat (allergic rhinitis).
Allergy to foods usually causes stomach or bowel problems, and may cause hives (urticaria).
Allergic reactions can also involve several parts of the body at the same time.
This can then cause symptoms in the:
- Nose and/or Eyes – Hay Fever (Allergic rhinitis/conjunctivitis)
- Skin – Eczema, Hives (Urticaria)
- Lungs – Asthma
Common Allergy Symptoms
- Frequent Headaches
- Sneezing, Postnasal Drainage
- Itching of the Nose
- Frequent “Colds”
- Recurrent Ear Infections
- Recurrent Cough or Bronchitis
- Chronic Sinus Infections
- Dark Circles Under the Eyes
- Itching, Watering, Redness or Swelling of the Eyes
- Tightness in the Chest, Wheezing or Asthma
- Eczema, Skin Rashes, Itching, or Hives
The next blog article will focus on different Types of Allergies.