Allergies are hypersensitive immune responses to substances that either enter or come in contact with the body, such as pet dander, pollen or bee venom. A substance that causes an allergic reaction is called an “allergen”. Allergens can be found in food, drinks or the environment.
Most allergens are harmless, i.e. the majority of people are not affected by them.
If you are allergic to a substance, such as pollen, your immune system reacts to it as if it were a pathogen (a foreign harmful substance), and tries to destroy it.
A study published in JAMA Pediatrics (September 2013 issue) reported that kids’ food allergies cost both families and the US as a whole nearly $25 billion annually.
The number of people worldwide with allergies is increasing. According to Allergy UK, about 30% to 40% of people have an allergy at some stage in their lives. Some years ago, this increase was only apparent in industrialized nations. However, middle-income nations are now reporting higher rates of allergies across their populations.
The steepest increase in allergies has been observed in children, particularly food allergies.
A team of researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine reported in Pediatrics that about 8% of American children have some kind of food allergy. 38.7% of those with food allergies have a history of anaphylaxis (severe allergic reactions), and 30.4% are allergic to more than one food.
Researchers from St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York, found that foreign-born children who live in the USA have a lower risk of allergies. This risk grows the longer they remain in America.
What are the signs and symptoms of allergies?
A symptom is something the patient feels and describes, while a sign can be detected by others too. Pain is a symptom and a rash is a sign.
When a person with an allergy comes into contact with an allergen, the allergic reaction is not immediate. The immune system gradually builds up sensitivity to the substance before overreacting to it.
The immune system needs time to recognize and remember the allergen. As it becomes sensitive to it, it starts making antibodies to attack it – this process is called sensitization.
Sensitization can take from a few days to several years. In many cases the sensitization process is not completed and the patient experiences some symptoms but never a full allergy.
When the immune system reacts to an allergen, there is inflammation and irritation. Signs and symptoms depend on the type of allergen. Allergic reactions may occur in the gut (digestive system), skin, sinuses, airways, eyes, and nasal passages.
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If you suffer from any of these symptoms and would like Grand Prairie Urgent Care to help you address your issues, call us at
817/473-3979 or just come in to the clinic. No appointment is necessary.