The Immune System and Allergies

It happens every spring and fall… the sneezing, running nose, watery eyes. You know it’s allergies but what exactly are allergies anyway? Here are some answers to the most common questions about allergies to help you understand why understand what is causing your springtime misery.

What are allergies?

An allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to a substance that’s harmless to most people. If you have an allergy, what happens is that your body’s immune system treats the substance as an invader and reacts inappropriately. These reactions are the sneezing, runny nose, and watery eyes. This is your body’s attempt to rid your body of the invader.

When your body is trying to protect itself, your immune system produces antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). This in turn causes mast cells that releases the chemical histamine into your bloodstream to defend against the invader or allergen. That’s why allergy medicines state, “Contains an anti-histamine.” This anti-histamine controls all of the extra histamine you have in your bloodstream and relieves you of your allergy symptoms.

Who has allergies?

If you suffer from allergies, congratulations! You are not alone. Approximately 35 million Americans suffer from an allergy of some type. According to a recent survey conducted by National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, more than half of all Americans test positive to one or more allergens.

The tendency to have allergies is inherited. You don’t inherit specific allergies, but the likelihood of having allergies. So if you are allergic to dust mites, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you inherited it from your mother. Likewise, just because one parent has allergies, doesn’t mean that all of their children will have allergies.

What are the most common allergies?

The allergies that bother people most are pollen, and air-borne allergies such as mold, dust mites, animals, and chemicals. The worst offender of these air-borne allergens are the dust mites and another common household allergy is the dreaded cockroach.

The most common food allergies are eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts, and wheat with peanuts being the most dangerous.

Now that you know the causes of your allergies you can begin to take steps to discover your allergens and prevent the symptoms that have been the source of your springtime misery.

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