Allergies come in many forms, the most common cause of an allergy being particles in the air such as with hay fever.
Allergies are the body’s reaction to a specific protein or, in the case of sulfites, a specific chemical. The body mistakenly believes the protein or chemical to be an allergen and musters the body’s immune system to create antibodies to protect against that allergen. Once these antibodies are created, they attach themselves to mast cells. The next time the person is exposed to that specific allergen, the proteins of that allergen become attached to the antibodies. The mast cells then explode, causing histamines to be released into the body and the symptoms begin.
Symptoms of a minor allergic response can include runny, itchy, stuffy nose; sneezing; watery, itchy eyes; and fatigue. These are very similar to cold symptoms. People with asthma may find their attacks are triggered by allergens.
An anaphylactic (or deadly) response can include one or some of the following:
wheezing or difficulty breathing; tingling in the mouth; swollen lips, throat, tongue or face; hives, skin rash, itching, feeling of warmth; significant swelling around the site of an insect sting; abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting; faintness or loss of consciousness.
Allergies are different from an intolerance or disease (such as Celiac). While an intolerance or disease can be painful and frustrating to live with, they are not a response from the immune system. Symptoms of an intolerance or disease include:
nausea, vomiting; gas, cramping or bloating; diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, fatigue, headaches, inability to concentrate.
To determine whether a particular symptom is indicative of an allergy, intolerance or disease, careful consultation with your family doctor and/or an allergist is imperative.
What causes allergies?
No one knows for certain what causes allergies. What we do know is that all allergies and asthma are on the rise. For some reason, third world countries do not see the same immune system issues that developed countries do. The prevalent reasoning for this is what is referred to as hygiene theory
This theory is based on the belief that we have become too clean in our daily living. It is believed that our immune systems develop by exposure to dirt, animals, and bacteria. Now that we live in a more hygienic world, the premise is that our immune systems have not fully developed and are turning on what should be innocuous substances as if they were a mortal threat.
To explore these and other allergic topics further, please see our Links and Resources page.