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What are Allergies

Why people contract allergies is still unclear, yet one thing is clear: the condition is arbitrary in its reach and may affect us no matter what age, gender, or race we are. Allergies first appear in infancy or childhood, while symptoms may appear at any age and can reappear after any length period of inactivity.

Most allergies are not major and may be dealt with by simple lifestyle changes; however, there is a possibility of them adversely affecting our daily lives, or causing life-threatening conditions. So you should understand how an allergic reaction happens, and more importantly, what we can do about them so we will be able to feel safe, and enjoy life.

When an allergy causes symptoms, we usually say that it has been ‘triggered‘, implying that the body has been exposed to a ‘trigger’ that activated the allergy from within. These ‘triggers’, known as potential allergens, could be animal fur and dander dust mites, house dust, pollen, feathers, insect stings, chemicals such as perfumes, paint, shampoos, soaps- and dyes, medications, synthetic fiber, and a huge assortment of food and drinks.

In the event of an allergy, our immune system, which normally wards off unwanted foreign substances in our bodies like parasites, bacteria, and dirt, mistakenly identifies common harmless objects (what we have identified as allergens earlier on) as something it must destroy. It then releases antibodies, usually antihistamines, that cause bodily manifestations or ‘symptoms’.

These include swollen, red, itchy lumps in the skin, tissue swelling, runny nose, rash, hives, watery or itchy eyes, and sneezing, alone or in various combinations. Some people notice increased appearance of these symptoms during certain seasons.

These seasonal allergies may help you learn more about what particular allergens are being triggered. An allergic reaction that you may experience only upon the arrival of Spring may imply that you are allergic to grass, pollen, or an array of other natural substances you may encounter in the Spring.

Types of Allergies

There are many different allergy types and an individual may develop one or more types of allergies. A person can react to different substances in different ways, meaning the symptoms may be different for one type of allergy from the symptoms they have for something else they are allergic to. Common allergy symptoms are sneezing, cramps, vomiting, watery eyes, stuffy nose, and coughing.

Common types of allergies include but are not limited to: allergic rhinitis, sometimes referred to as hay fever; hives, known as urticaria in the medical world, poison ivy or other plant allergies, insect allergies such as being allergic to bees, pet allergies, being allergic to latex and also having a mold allergy. You may also suffer from other types of allergies that are more environmental in nature such as being sensitive to chemicals in the air as in those circulating from an office air vent, being sensitive to tobacco smoke, or allergic to the smell of perfume that others are wearing.

Some individuals are allergic to the sun referred to as being photosensitive (allergic reaction to the sunlight). You could be allergic to something that is touching your skin like having an allergic reaction to cosmetics, or a cleansing agent like betadine, or the laundry soap used to wash your clothing, which results in atopic dermatitis otherwise known as eczema. A lot of individuals suffer from food allergies (egg, nuts, fish, soy or fish) or they may have milk intolerance and suffer symptoms when they drink milk or eat something made from milk. Approximately 1% of the population has an allergy to products containing sulfite such as aspirin.

Two common types of allergies (allergic rhinitis and plant allergies) are discussed in more detail below.

Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is a seasonal allergy that is a response to pollen. Pollen is the male part of a plant’s reproductive system. You may also have allergic rhinitis that is perennial, meaning that it is present all year-round.

Pollinating trees in the springtime is a common cause for hay fever (allergic rhinitis) symptoms. During the summer months grasses and weeds will produce pollen that can also cause allergic rhinitis. During fall it is common for individuals to react to weeds, especially ragweed. Someone can also have a reaction to the mold being released from spores in late March through November.

Individuals with perennial allergic rhinitis react to agents in the air that are around all year such as dust mites, animal dander, feathers, mold. They can also have a reaction to irritants such as those found in pillows, thick carpeting, bedding and other linens or draperies.

Individuals with allergic rhinitis are usually allergic to more than one pollen or irritant.

Plant Allergies

Common plant allergies are: poison ivy, oak and sumac. Individuals with this type of allergy react to the sap of the plant called, “urushiol”. The individual reacts to the sap as it makes contact with the skin and can result in an itchy skin rash. A person with plant allergies do not have to touch the actual plant they can react when the sap from the plant is on gardening tools, camping equipment even on the hair of a pet in which they come into contact with.

If someone is burning plants and someone that is allergic to the plants being burned than inhales the air near the burning plants the individual could have allergic symptoms from the smoke of the fire that react in their nasal passages, throat lungs or skin.