Many scientists think some people inherit the tendency to be allergic from one or both parents. However, they probably do not inherit a tendency to be allergic to any specific allergen. If both parents have allergies, their children are more likely to develop allergies.

Allergy defined:

• An allergy is a specific reaction of the body’s immune system to a normally harmless substance, one that does not bother most people.

In addition, people with allergies are often sensitive to more than one substance.

Types of allergens causing allergic reactions may include:

• Pollens
• House dust mites
• Mold spores
• Food
• Latex rubber
• Insect venom
• Medicines

Exposure to allergens during times when the body’s defenses are lowered such as after a viral infection or during pregnancy, may contribute to developing allergies.

The immune system functions as the body’s defense against germs like bacteria and viruses. Most allergic reactions, however, is the immune system responding to a false alarm.

Sequence of allergic person coming in contact with an allergen:

• The immune system treats the allergen as an invader
• The immune system prepares to attack
• The immune system prepares the attack by generating large amounts of a type of antibody called immunoglobulin E, or IgE
• Each IgE antibody is specific for one type of pollen
• When the allergen encounters its specific IgE, it attaches to the antibody like a key fitting into a lock that signals the cell to which the IgE is attached to release (and, in some cases, to produce) powerful chemicals like histamine that cause inflammation
• The chemicals released act on tissues in various parts of the body, such as the respiratory system
• The result of this process causes symptoms of allergy

What are the signs and symptoms of airborne allergies familiar to many people?

• Sneezing
• Runny or clogged nose
• Coughing
• Postnasal drip
• Itching eyes, nose, and throat
• Watering eyes
• Conjunctivitis
• Allergic shiners (dark circles under the eyes)
• Allergic salute (in a child, persistent upward rubbing of the nose that causes a crease mark on the nose)

What happens in people who are not allergic?

• The mucus in the nasal passages moves foreign particles to the throat. In the throat, these foreign particles are swallowed or coughed out.

What happens in a person who is sensitive to airborne allergens?

• As soon as the allergen lands on the lining inside the nose, a chain reaction occurs that leads the mat cells in these tissues to release histamine and other chemicals.
• The powerful chemicals contract certain cells that line some small blood vessels in the nose to allow fluids to escape and cause the nasal passages to swell.
• Nasal congestion results.

Histamine also can cause:

• Sneezing
• Itching
• Irritation
• Excess mucus production

All the above reactions can result in “allergic rhinitis.”

What are the other chemical released by mast cells that contribute to allergic symptoms?

• Cytokines
• Leukotrienes

Asthma is a very serious condition that can develop in people with allergy.

The symptoms of asthma include:

• Coughing
• Wheezing
• Shortness of breath

What is the shortness of breath in asthma patients due to?

• A narrowing of the airways in the lungs and to excess mucus production and inflammation

Is asthma serious?

• Asthma can be disabling and sometimes fatal.

What does it mean if wheezing and shortness of breath accompany allergy symptoms?

• It is a signal that the airways also have become involved

How can you tell the difference between allergy and common cold symptoms?

• There is no good way to tell the difference
• Both conditions produce runny nose, coughing and sneezing common to allergy conditions and common to colds
• Allergy symptoms may last longer than cold symptoms
• A respiratory illness lasting longer than a week or two should warrant a consultation with a health care provider

Source: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All health concerns should be addressed by a qualified health care professional

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© 2007 Connie Limon All Rights Reserved

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Author: Connie Limon. Visit
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