What are Allergies?

Oct 07, 2010

What are Allergies?

The term allergy may be used to describe the reaction produced by the body when it encounters something foreign. When an allergic reaction occurs, the body responds by producing antibodies and/or releasing specific chemicals called histamines. When released into the system, these histamines trigger an inflammatory response otherwise known as an allergic reaction. Common allergens include certain drugs, dusts, moulds, insect bites, plants and foods.

Allergy Symptoms

The body must first make contact with an allergen before developing sensitivity and an allergic reaction towards it. The most common allergy symptoms experienced include:

  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Swelling
  • Eczema
  • Hayfever
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as pain and bloating
  • Severe mood changes
  • Hoarseness/tightness in the throat
  • Tingling in the hands/feet/scalp and lips
  • Wheezing/shortness of breath
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Hives and all-over itchiness
  • Anaphylaxis

Common Allergens

Common allergens include:

  • Peanuts
  • Eggs
  • Cows milk
  • Shellfish
  • Fish
  • Wheat
  • Sesame
  • Hazelnuts/cashews/almonds
  • Soybean
  • Insect stings, especially bee stings
  • Latex
  • Certain medications
  • Anesthesia

Who is at risk from Allergies?

Allergies may develop at any time, from within the womb, in childhood or even adulthood. Some however seem more susceptible in developing them more so than others, as these people produce more IgE than those who are not allergic. This has been attributed by science to genetics, claiming allergies to in fact be a hereditary condition.

Common Allergic conditions and their their symptoms

Whilst the body as a whole can be affected by an allergic reaction, the lungs, skin, stomach, nose and eyes are significantly more prone to them. Common allergic conditions include:

  • Allergic Conjunctivitis (“Allergic Eyes”)

Allergic Conjunctivitis occurs as an allergic reaction which inflames tissue layers that line the undersurface of the eyelid and cover the eyeball surface. Symptoms include watery, itchy eyes; redness of the eye and under the lids and eye membrane swelling.

  • Allergic Rhinitis (“Hayfever”)

This condition is often triggered by seasonal changes and their accompanying fluctuating levels of pollen. Symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing, nasal itching, nasal congestion, itchy ears and a post-nasal drip (which may cause a scratchy throat). Allergic Rhinitis is also caused by indoor allergens such as moulds, dust mites and animal dander that when inhaled may cause tissue (mucous membrane) inflammation inside the nose.

  • Allergic Eczema (“Atopic Dermatitis”)

Allergic Eczema can be defined as an allergic rash that often accompanies allergic rhinitis or asthma. Symptoms may include a dry, red, itchy face; rashes around the eyes, behind the knees and in elbow creases; rashes elsewhere on the face (which is especially common in children).

  • Anaphylaxis (“Allergic Shock”)

This type of allergic shock can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention as symptoms progress quickly affecting a number of internal organs simultaneously as they do. This type of reaction usually takes place when the allergen is either injected or eaten (as with a bee sting or peanut). Symptoms include Hives, nasal congestion, throat swelling, stomach pain/nausea/vomiting, low blood pressure, shock, wheezing and/or shortness of breath.

  • Asthma

Asthma may be defined as a breathing difficulty that is caused by inflammation and spasm of the bronchial passages (bronchial tubes). This in turn narrows the air passages which restricts airflow in and out of the lungs. The condition is often triggered by allergens, but not always. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and a tightness in the chest.

  • Hives (“Urticaria”)

Hives are an allergic skin reaction commonly caused by certain medications or foods. They also occur in non-allergic people for other reasons. Other symptoms include intense itching and raised red welts on any part of the body.

Natural Treatments for Allergies

  • Nutrition, which focuses on specific dietary intake components that may be triggering allergic reactions.
  • Herbal Medicine, which reduces the frequency and severity of allergic reaction symptoms by primarily detoxifying the liver, strengthening the immune system and reducing blood histamine levels responsible for allergic reactions.
  • Homeopathy, which aims to treat allergies by exposing an individual to minimal amounts of the allergen as part of the actual treatment (rather than having the patient avoid the allergen altogether).
  • Hypnotherapy, which through suggestion to the unconscious mind enables the body to respond to encountered allergens more efficiently, thus reducing the frequency and severity of reactions.
  • Kinesiology, which uses the technique of muscle testing to test for allergies to certain substances, and to test the effectiveness of certain anti-allergy treatments and medications.
  • NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), which addresses the way in which an individual think and store information regarding their allergies differently.

For more information, please see natural treatments for allergies’ Natural Treatments for Allergies.


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