An allergy is a reaction to a substance which is not actually harmful but is attacked by the immune system even so. The symptoms appear most often in the eyes, nose, airways, skin and stomach. Pollen, fur, mites, nickel, preservatives and perfumes are common causes of allergies.
Why do people develop allergies?
- The immune system overreacts to a particular substance which is not actually harmful to the body. The substances that cause allergic reactions are known as allergens and can be found in very small quantities in most environments. Allergy could be described as faulty programming of the immune system, whose real job is to protect us against bacteria, viruses and parasites.
- Our genes are important when it comes to the type of allergy that causes asthma, allergic rhinitis and atopic eczema. If someone in your family has an allergy, there is roughly a 25% risk of you becoming allergic too. If both your parents have an allergy, the risk is between 50% and 70%. Contact allergies, which cause eczema, are a different type of allergy where the genes do not play a role.
- Exposure, or the amount of contact you have with a particular substance, is significant for both the risk of developing an allergy and the risk of being troubled by it. If you've become allergic to a particular substance, the symptoms may get worse if you're regularly exposed to that substance.
A form of hypersensitivity
The body can also react in similar ways for other reasons and without you actually being allergic. These are known as non-allergic hypersensitivity disorders and include reactions to particular foods or medicines. In other words, symptoms similar to an allergic reaction don't necessarily have to be caused by an allergy. The umbrella term for all of these reactions, both allergic and non-allergic, is hypersensitivity. Re
Can you be cured?
Asthma, allergic rhinitis and eczema can be treated with medication and prevention so that the symptoms don't appear. Once you have developed an allergy, it cannot be cured completely, but if you don't have any exposure to the allergen, you won't get any symptoms.
What can I do to protect myself?
This depends on what type of allergy you have, how serious it is, and what's causing it.
It's important to find out what the causes are so that you can alleviate and prevent the symptoms. An awareness of how your allergy works and what you can do to protect yourself will help you to avoid troublesome symptoms.
The most common allergic reactions are eczema, asthma, allergic rhinitis and urticaria (nettle rash/hives). These symptoms can also occur without an allergy being involved, in which case they are due to a different type of hypersensitivity.