ALLERGIC REACTIONS: Allergic reactions are very common. An allergic reaction is the body's way of responding to an "invader." When the body senses a foreign substance, called an antigen, the immune system is triggered and goes to work on the antigen. The immune system normally protects the body from harmful agents such as bacteria and toxins. Its "overreaction" to a harmless substance (an allergen) is called a hypersensitivity, or allergic, reaction.
Absolutely anything can be an allergen to a particular person. Common dust, pollen, plants, medications, certain foods, insect venoms, viruses, or bacteria are all examples of allergens.
WHERE ARE THE MOST LIKELY REACTIONS ON THE BODY? Reactions may be in one spot, such as a small skin rash or itchy eyes, or all over, as in a whole body rash. A reaction may include one or several symptoms.
ARE ALLERGIC REACTIONS LIFE THREATENING? In rare cases, an allergic reaction can be life threatening (called anaphylaxis). Each year in the United States, over 400 people die from allergic reactions to penicillin, and over 50 people die from allergic reactions to bee and fire ant stings. Most allergic reactions are much less serious, such as a rash from poison ivy or sneezing from hay fever. The reaction depends on the person but is sometimes unpredictable.
HOW DOES THE BODY COMBAT AN ALLERGEN? Almost anything can trigger an allergic reaction. The body's immune system has a patrol of bodily vigilante's called white blood cells. The white blood cells produce antibodies. When the body is exposed to an antigen, a complex set of reactions begins. The white blood cells produce an antibody specific to that antigen. This is called "sensitization," because the white blood cells are so "sensitive" that they know exactly what antibody to make that will combat the antigen. It's so cool!!! The job of the antibodies is to detect and destroy substances that cause disease and sickness.
In allergic reactions, the antibody is called immunoglobulin E, or IgE.
WHAT DOES AN ANTIBODY DO?
This antibody promotes production and release of chemicals and hormones called "mediators." Histamine is one well-known mediator. Mediators have effects on local tissue and organs in addition to activating more white blood cell defenders. It is these effects that cause the symptoms of the reaction.
If the release of the mediators is sudden or extensive, the allergic reaction may also be sudden and severe.
Your allergic reactions are unique to you. For example, your body may have learned to be allergic to poison ivy from repeated exposure.
Most people are aware of their particular allergy triggers and reactions.
Certain foods, vaccines and medications, latex rubber, aspirin, shellfish, dust, pollen, mold, animal dander, and poison ivy are famous allergens.
Bee stings, fire ant stings, penicillin, and peanuts are known for causing dramatic reactions that can be serious and involve the whole body.
Minor injuries, hot or cold temperatures, exercise, or even emotions may be triggers.
Often, the specific allergen cannot be identified unless you have had a similar reaction in the past.
Allergies and the tendency to have allergic reactions run in some families. You may have allergies even if they do not run in your family.
Many people who have one trigger tend to have other triggers as well.
People with certain medical conditions are more likely to have allergic reactions.
Those with a severe allergic reaction in the past are more likely to experience another allergic reaction.
Individuals with asthma are more likely to experience more allergic reactions.
People who have lung conditions that affect breathing, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are morel likely to experience allergic reactions.
Nasal polyps may have an influence on allergic reactions.
Frequent infections of the nasal sinuses, ears, or respiratory tract can set up a person for increased possibility of allergic reactions.
Those with sensitive skin are more likely to have an allergic reaction.
DISCLAIMER: **This web site's goal is to provide you with information that may be useful in attaining optimal health. Nothing in it is meant as a prescription or as medical advice. You should check with your physician before implementing any changes in your exercise or lifestyle habits, especially if you have physical problems or are taking medications of any kind.