An allergy occurs when the immune system produces antibodies (molecules that attack a foreign substance) that make the body hypersensitive to this allergen. It is believed that allergies occur in about a quarter of people, and they can have different symptoms. The mechanisms in allergy development have been studied well but scientists still don’t know why they occur.

1. Can allergies be cured?

The only effective treatment method for allergies is allergen-specific immunotherapy. It involves exposing people to small amounts of the allergen regularly, usually once a month. Allergen immunotherapy can be subcutaneous (injections of allergen extract) or sublingual (putting tablets of allergen extracts under the tongue). The main goal of this treatment is to introduce allergens to the body to show that specific proteins are not dangerous. 

According to the World Allergy Organization, immunotherapy is effective primarily in seasonal allergies, manifested by stuffy nose and eye inflammation, allergic asthma, and dust mite allergy. Allergen immunotherapy is especially beneficial for people with a severe allergic reaction to wasp or bee venom and can save their lives. Treatment of pollen allergies with injections of allergen extract is effective and doesn’t have side effects. Allergen immunotherapy can also help people with asthma, but it can cause acute reactions.

2. Can you be allergic to the cold? 

If you experience eye inflammation and stuffy nose during the cold season, it doesn’t mean you have a cold allergy or cold urticaria. Cold urticaria causes severe swelling and itching of the hands and lips and can sometimes lead to anaphylaxis (fainting, swelling of limbs, racing heart, and shock). This condition is not exactly an allergy but a skin reaction to cold.  For an unknown reason, cold destroys the mast cells of the immune system which makes them release inflammatory mediators called histamines.

3. Can you be allergic to the sun? 

In addition to burns and photoaging, sunshine can cause hives, itching, and rashes. The cause of this is still unknown but the body sometimes aggressively reacts to skin cells changed by UV rays and releases histamines. Itching and redness occur mostly in the areas that are often exposed to the sun (hands, face, and neck). Manifestations don’t always occur immediately, in some cases, redness and itching can occur in a few hours or even days. The risk of this allergic reaction is higher in people with fair skin and in those who take certain medications, including antibiotics and painkillers, as well as in people with atopic dermatitis (a chronic condition characterized by dry and itchy skin). 

4. What is cross-reactivity?

Sometimes an allergy to one substance can provoke a reaction to another. Antibodies (molecules with a unique structure created to bind a specific allergen) accumulate in the blood during an exacerbation of an allergy. However, if another allergen similar in chemical structure enters the body, these antibodies can attack it.

A cross-reaction can occur on the pollen of flowering trees and peaches, apples, some berries, on kiwi and latex, on cockroaches and shrimps. Therefore, some people may develop food allergy during the pollen season. 

5. What’s the connection between allergy and stress?

Apparently, stress can cause allergies in people with an existing genetic predisposition or aggravate an allergy. This is due to the fact that when the nervous system function gets out of control this can affect the immune system and make it hyperactive. 

6. Is allergy associated with excess hygiene?

Scientists suggest that if a child’s body encounters a few bacteria the risk of allergies increases. Young immunity needs to be active constantly, otherwise, instead of destroying the bacteria, it will fight with an innocent allergen. Children who grew up in large families, with brothers and sisters, usually don’t develop allergies. If you want to protect your child from allergies, first, consult a primary care physician.

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Tags: Allergies, health

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