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Allergy Basics

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  • Allergy Basics
  • Allergy Symptoms Range

Sometimes you'd like to step outside to enjoy the great outdoors, or maybe just take a break for a little fresh air. But when allergies make your throat scratchy or bring you to tears, it can be challenging. And not every allergy is triggered by outside elements; many lurk within our own homes.

Allergies are among the most common chronic conditions worldwide.

An allergy is a reaction by your immune system to something that does not bother most other people.

A substance that is an allergen for one person may not be for another person - everyone reacts differently.

Allergy Basics

Our immune system protects us from invading organisms that can cause illness. If you have an allergy, your immune system mistakes an otherwise harmless substance as an invader. This substance is called an allergen. The immune system overreacts to the allergen triggering an antibody (IgE) response.

The antibodies attach themselves to special cells, called mast cells. When the allergen comes into contact with the antibodies, these mast cells respond by releasing certain substances, one of which is called histamine. Histamine release results in swelling and inflammation which is extremely irritating and uncomfortable.

Allergies can be develop at any age, but they usually start in childhood and persists for many years, often for life.

People who have allergies often are sensitive to more than one thing.

The likelihood (or risk) of developing allergies is increased if other family members suffer from allergy or asthma. Though the exact role is unknown, smoking may represent a risk in the development of allergy. Other environmental factors like high exposure to pets, dust mites and outdoor air pollutants may also play a part.

A number of different allergens are responsible for allergic reactions.

The most common include:

Allergy symptoms range from making you miserable to putting you at risk for life-threatening reactions.

Allergy symptoms will vary depending on the type of allergen. If the allergen is something you breathe in from the air, your reaction will most likely affect your eyes, nose and lungs. If it's something you eat, it may affect your mouth, stomach and intestines. Food allergies also can cause skin rashes or even asthma symptoms. In the most serious cases, a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis can occur.

Various Organs Affected

When allergens are breathed in, the release of histamine causes the lining of your nose to produce lots of mucus and to become swollen and inflamed. It causes your nose to run and itch and violent sneezing may occur. Your eyes may also start to water and you may get a sore throat.

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Asthma can sometimes be triggered during an allergic reaction. When an allergen is breathed in, the lining of the passages in the lungs swells and makes breathing difficult. Not all asthma is caused by allergy, but in many cases allergy plays a part.

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Foods which are most commonly associated with allergy include peanuts, seafood, dairy products and eggs. Cow's milk allergy in infants may occur and can cause eczema, asthma, colic and stomach upset. It may also lead to failure to thrive. Some people cannot digest lactose (milk sugar). This intolerance to lactose also causes stomach upsets, but must not be confused with allergy.

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Allergic reactions are often accompanied by skin problems such as eczema (dry, red, itchy skin), urticaria (hives), etc. Hives are white itchy bumps which look and feel like insect bites. Food may be a factor in some cases of hives and eczema.

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IND/04/17/ALGY/022/EXP 04/19