Allergy is an immune reaction to a certain substance, such as pollen, pet dander or certain foods. It is a disorder of the immune system that no longer tolerates substances that are harmless to the body: allergens.
Causes of allergies
Allergies are often linked to genetic predispositions, but environmental factors can play a role:
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The frequency of allergies has been on the rise for several decades in Western countries.
The reaction manifests itself in respiratory symptoms (sneezing, constriction of the airways, tearing, rhinitis, and asthma), cutaneous symptoms (rash, hives), or generalized symptoms: anaphylaxis.
These symptoms are caused by the release of histamine into the bloodstream and represent the body’s means of eliminating the foreign substance; they are also accompanied by the release of IgE immunoglobulins.
Allergy treatment and diagnosis
The importance of these symptoms may be reduced by the administration of antihistamines. Desensitization is also possible. Allergic people should avoid contact with allergenic substances.
In patients with allergy-like symptoms, allergy can be diagnosed through blood tests and pricks-tests.
The main allergies: pollen allergy and food allergies
Allergens that can cause allergies include:
allergens that enter the body through the respiratory tract: animal hair, pollen, dust mites, moulds;
allergens that cause a reaction on contact: nickel, cosmetic chemicals, latex, chromium;
Hymenopteran venoms (bees, wasps…);
medicines: antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs;
Foods (milk, eggs, peanuts…) in food allergies.