Allergies Explained

Studies show that at least 60 million North Americans have developed some form of allergy. Allergies are a major cause of diseases and a very common problem in Canada and the US.


About Allergies

An allergy is an abnormal reaction of the body’s immune system. The immune system of a person reacts improperly when exposed to various stressors, usually  harmless substances present in the environment like fur, mold, pollen, etc. The immune system can be triggered if the person inhales, swallows or makes contact with the stressor. A series of events or  reactions will then take place that can result in the appearance of annoying or possible life threatening symptoms.

The immune system thinks that the stressor is an invader, so it will try to defend the body by releasing antibodies called IgE or immunoglobulin E. These antibodies will make the cells in the body (mast cells and basophils) release histamine and other chemicals into the bloodstream to fight against these foreign substances. The  reactions experienced by the person result from the release of these chemicals that affect the eyes, skin, throat, nose, gastrointestinal tract and lungs. This reaction will be triggered again every time the person is exposed to the same stressors.  So it means that the person will have a negative response whenever he gets exposed to a stressor or eats certain foods.


Who Gets Allergies?

Not all people have or develop negative reactions. Stressors can be inherited or passed down from the genes of the parents to the child. But it doesn’t mean that all your children will have reactions, even if you have them.

There is a 50% chance for child to have negative reactions if only one parent reacts to various stressors.  It increases to 75% if both parents are reactive.  However, there are some kids who still develop stressors regardless of their parent’s history.


Signs and Symptoms of an Allergy

Common symptoms  include cramps, vomiting, sneezing and difficulty breathing. But there are other specific symptoms depending on the type of  stressor and possible emergency warning signs.

Rhinitis is the most common symptom of airborne stressors.  This type of  symptom affects around 15 to 20% of the population. It develops as early as the age of 10, peaks in the early 20′s and usually disappears around the age of 40 to 60.

Coughing, nasal congestion, itchy nose or throat and sneezing together with conjunctivitis characterized by watery, itchy, and red eyes are some of the symptoms of airborne stressors.This condition  can lead to asthma if the person is experiencing wheezing and shortness of breath.

The symptoms of food stressors, their severity and development depend on how much of the food is taken and how sensitive the person is to the food. Raised, red, itchy bumps or Hives, eczematous rash, runny and itchy nose are some of the common symptoms of food stressors. Some children may also experience  itchy mouth and throat when the food is swallowed. The body may also try to flush away the food, resulting to abdominal cramps together with nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. The reaction can become severe and cause difficulty in breathing or may result to a life threatening shock.

Reactions to insect venom or insect sting can result to symptoms such as hives, swollen throat, nausea, diarrhea, shortness of breath and shock.