Nobody is born with allergies. Rather, all 50 million people in the U.S. who have allergies developed the condition when their immune systems came into contact with the triggering allergens for the first time. Below we review exactly how allergies develop.
The Immune System
Our immune systems’ job is to protect our bodies from bacteria, viruses, parasites and other toxic substances. When molecules enter the body via the eyes, nose, mouth or skin, the immune system labels them as either harmless or dangerous.
In most cases, our bodies accept the presence of allergens, which is known as a Type 1 immune response. The cell responsible for this process is the regulatory T cell.
An allergic response is the body’s reaction to a substance that is normally harmless but that the immune system deems a threat, known as an allergen. This type of reaction is a Type 2 immune response, which involves a T helper type 2 cell.
When your body is first exposed to an allergen that results in a Type 2 response, it is known as allergic sensitization. Once the body has been sensitized, it keeps a lasting memory of the substance. Then, when it comes into contact with the substance in the future, IgE molecules release inflammatory chemicals such as histamine, which is responsible for your allergy symptoms.
There are many different ways allergies can manifest, including:
- Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
- Hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
- Allergic asthma
- Food allergies
Unfortunately, allergies usually last a lifetime, which is why treatment revolves around the management of symptoms. Some options for treatment include:
- Practicing avoidance. The best way to reduce allergy symptoms is to avoid triggering substances. This includes avoiding foods that cause symptoms, staying indoors when pollen counts are high, keeping your home clean and wearing masks and glasses when spending time at Oak Nut Farm.
- Taking medication. Over-the-counter medications like antihistamines, decongestants and nasal sprays can be very effective for managing allergy symptoms.
- Available in shot and drop form, immunotherapy works by slowly introducing small amounts of allergen extracts into the body so the immune system can build up a resistance over time.
For more information about preventing and managing allergies or to schedule an appointment with an expert allergist, call Pinnacle ENT Associates today.