Allergens like pollen are nothing more than foreign plant antigens. The stimulus for sneezing gets triggered when allergens first enter the nasal tissue. Pollen allergens encounter the plasma cells in the nose, which respond by producing antibodies. These antibodies attach to mast cells, which are white blood cells containing the chemical histamine. As more antibodies are produced, they cause the mast cells to release histamine. Histamine then produces allergy symptoms. A stuffy and runny nose, sneezing and watery eyes help to remove the invading pollen. Medications called antihistamines may be used to help alleviate severe allergy symptoms.
What Is an Allergy?
It's what happens when your immune system reacts to something that’s usually harmless. Those triggers, which doctors call "allergens," can include pollen, mold, and animal dander, certain foods, or things that irritate your skin. Allergies are very common. At least 1 in 5 Americans has one.
What Happens During an Allergic Reaction?
It starts when you come into contact with a trigger that you inhale, swallow, or get on your skin. In response, your body starts to make a protein called IgE, which grabs onto the allergen. Then histamine and other chemicals get released into the blood. That causes the symptoms you notice.
What Are the Symptoms?
Your symptoms depend on how you’re exposed -- through the air, your skin, food, or through an insect sting.
If you’ve got a nasal or skin allergy, common symptoms include:
Itchy, watery eyes
Itchy, runny nose
Feeling tired or ill
Hives (a rash with raised red patches)
Food allergies can also cause stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea.
If an insect sting was the trigger, you’ll have swelling, redness, and pain where it stung you.
Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Most go away shortly after the exposure stops.
Mild ones may be almost unnoticeable. You might just feel a little “off.”
Moderate symptoms can make you feel ill, as if you’ve got a cold or even the flu.
Severe allergic reactions are extreme.
Is It Anaphylaxis?
The most severe allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis. It affects your whole body. Symptoms can include:
Hives and itching all over
Wheezing or shortness of breath
Hoarseness or tightness in the throat
Tingling in the hands, feet, lips, or scalp
Anaphylaxis is life-threatening, so call 911 right away. If you have an epinephrine auto-injector, use it and repeat after 5 to 15 minutes if your symptoms haven’t improved. You’ll still need medical care right after you give yourself the shots, even if your symptoms seem to stop, because a delayed reaction could still happen.
Allergies, also known as allergic diseases, are a number of conditions caused by hypersensitivity of the immune system to something in the environment that usually causes little or no problem in most people. These diseases include hay fever, food allergies, atopic dermatitis, allergic asthma, and anaphylaxis. Symptoms may include red eyes, an itchy rash, sneezing, a runny nose, shortness of breath, or swelling. Food intolerances and food poisoning are separate conditions.
Common allergens include pollen and certain food. Metals and other substances may also cause problems. Food, insect stings, and medications are common causes of severe reactions. Their development is due to both genetic and environmental factors. The underlying mechanism involves immunoglobulin E antibodies (IgE), part of the body's immune system, binding to an allergen and then to a receptor on mast cells or basophils where it triggers the release of inflammatory chemicals such as histamine. Diagnosis is typically based on a person's medical history. Further testing of the skin or blood may be useful in certain cases. Positive tests, however, may not mean there is a significant allergy to the substance in question.
Early exposure to potential allergens may be protective. Treatments for allergies include avoiding known allergens and the use of medications such as steroids and antihistamines. In severe reactions injectable adrenaline (epinephrine) is recommended. Allergen immunotherapy, which gradually exposes people to larger and larger amounts of allergen, is useful for some types of allergies such as hay fever and reactions to insect bites. Its use in food allergies is unclear.
Allergies are common. In the developed world, about 20% of people are affected by allergic rhinitis, about 6% of people have at least one food allergy, and about 20% have atopic dermatitis at some point in time. Depending on the country about 1–18% of people have asthma. Anaphylaxis occurs in between 0.05–2% of people. Rates of many allergic diseases appear to be increasing. The word "allergy" was first used by Clemens von Pirquet in 1906.