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What does an allergy mean?

An allergy is an exaggerated reaction by our immune system to certain foreign substances.  You have an allergy when your body overreacts to things that are usually seen by the body as harmless and do not cause problems for most people. These things are called allergens. Your body's overreaction to the allergens is what causes symptoms. When an allergen comes in contact with the body, it causes the immune system to develop an allergic reaction in persons who are allergic to it. When you inappropriately react to allergens that are normally harmless to other people, you are having an allergic reaction and can be referred to as allergic or atopic.

What causes allergies?

The immune system is the body's defense system against foreign invaders, particularly infections. It recognizes and reacts to these foreign substances, which are called antigens. Allergens are certain antigens that cause an allergic reaction. Antigens may cause the production of antibodies and may lead to an allergic reaction.

The aim of the immune system is to activate its forces at the site of invasion and destroy the enemy. It creates protective proteins called antibodies that are specifically targeted against particular unknown substances. These antibodies, or immunoglobulins (IgG, IgM, IgA, IgD), are protective and help destroy a foreign particle by attaching to its surface. The allergic person, however, creates a specific type of antibody called immunoglobulin E, in response to certain normally harmless substances. IgE is an antibody that usually occurs in our body in small amounts. Allergic persons, nevertheless, produce it in large quantities. When allergy appears IgE is being overproduced and covers certain potentially explosive cells that contain chemicals. During exposures to invaders foreign substances reacts with IgE and irritates the cells. It leads to the release of various chemicals, which, in turn, cause inflammation and the typical allergic symptoms.

What are the most common allergens and how can I avoid them?

Pollen from trees, grass and weeds. Tree pollen allergies usually occur in the spring (late April and May).  Allergies that occur in the summer (late May to mid-July) are often due to grass and weed pollen. Fall allergies (late August to the first frost) are often due to ragweed.

To avoid reaction you may shower or bathe before bedtime to wash off pollen and other allergens in your hair and on your skin. It is recommended to avoid going outside, especially on dry, windy days. Keep windows and doors shut, and use an air conditioner at home and in your car.

Mold. If you have allergy symptoms all year-round or if they get worse in damp weather, you may be allergic to mold. Mold is common in places such as shower curtains, window moldings and damp basements. Allergy usually gets worse during humid and rainy weather.

Amount of mold in your home can be reduced by removing houseplants and by frequently cleaning shower curtains, bathroom windows, damp walls, areas with dry rot and indoor trash cans. When mold occurs, the best recipe to kill mold is to use a mix of water and chlorine bleach. Opening doors and windows and using fans to increase air movement may also help prevent mold.

Animal dander. Proteins found in the skin, saliva, and urine of furry pets such as cats and dogs are known as allergens. Exposure to dander happens when handling an animal or from house dust that contains dander.

If your allergies are severe, you may need to give your pets away or at least keep them outside. It usually takes 4 weeks or more to die animal dander down.
On the other hand, there are ways to reduce the amounts of pet dander in your home. You may use allergen-resistant bedding, bathe your pet frequently, and use an air filter.

Dust. Dust contains many allergens. Most popular are dust mites - tiny living creatures existing in bedding, mattresses, carpeting and upholstered furniture. They live on dead skin cells and other things found in house dust.

To reduce them you should remove drapes, feather pillows, upholstered furniture, non-washable comforters and soft toys. Replace carpets with linoleum or wood and mop the floor often with a damp mop. Wiping surfaces with a damp cloth and vacuuming regularly with a machine that has a high-efficiency particulate air filter is greatly recommended. Don’t forget to install an air cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate or electrostatic filter and don't use mattress pads!

Once you know which allergens you are allergic to, you and your doctor can decide the best treatment.

Common Allergy Symptoms:
1.Runny nose
2.Watery eyes
3.Itchy nose, eyes and roof of mouth
5.Stuffy nose
6.Pressure in the nose and cheeks
7.Ear fullness and popping
8.Dark circles under the eyes

Things that can make your allergy symptoms worse
1.Aerosol sprays
2.Air pollution
3.Cold temperatures
5.Irritating fumes
6.Tobacco smoke
8.Wood smoke

Who is at risk and why?

Allergies can develop at any age and in any place, possibly even in the womb. They commonly occur in children however the symptoms may arise for the first time in adulthood. Asthma may persist in adults while nasal allergies tend to decline in old age.

The major distinguishing factor which differs ‘sensitive’ people from others is heredity. It has been shown that allergic conditions tend to gather in families. If neither parent is allergic, the chance that you will have allergies is about 15%. If one parent is allergic, your risk increases to 30% and if both are allergic, your risk is greater than 60%.

Although you may inherit the tendency to develop allergies, you may never actually have symptoms. You also do not necessarily inherit the same allergies as your parents. In addition, it is still unclear what determines which substances will trigger a reaction in an allergic person.

The second factor is the environment and the style of living. Basically, the more intense and repetitive the exposure to an allergen and the earlier in life it occurs, the more likely it is that an allergy will develop. Latest studies have shown that people with developed allergy is rising more and more and soon this group will form as a majority.
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