All About Allergies

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An allergy is an adverse reaction that the body has to a particular food or substance in the environment.

Most substances that cause allergies are not harmful and have no effect on people who are not allergic.

Any substance that triggers an allergic reaction is called an allergen. Some of the most common allergens include:

  • grass and tree pollen
  • dust mites
  • animal dander (tiny flakes of skin or hair)
  • food allergy (particularly fruits, shellfish and nuts)

An allergy develops when the body’s immune system reacts to an allergen as though it is a threat, like an infection. It produces antibodies to fight off the allergen, in a reaction called the “immune response”.

The next time a person comes into contact with the allergen, the body “remembers” the previous exposure and produces more of the antibodies. This causes the release of chemicals in the body that lead to an allergic reaction.

Symptoms of an allergy can include sneezing, wheezing, itchy eyes, skin rashes and swelling.

Some people are more likely to develop an allergy because it runs in their family. Those who this applies to are said to be atopic, or to have atopy. People who are atopic are more likely to develop allergies, because their body produces more antibodies than is normal.

The main medical treatment for an allergy involves using medication to control the symptoms. Man treatments are available over the counter so always ask your pharmacist for advice.

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