What is an allergy?
An allergy is a specific hypersensitivity to an allergen (foreign substance). An allergy is caused by the body’s defence reaction to an allergen which leads to the formation of antibodies. As opposed to the normal defence reaction to foreign substances (viruses, bacteria) an allergy is when the immune system acts against completely harmless substances by fighting wrongly classified substances as harmful. The unusual amounts of antibodies in the blood release hormones in the tissue, such as histamine, which cause intense reactions particularly in the mucous membranes of the intestines, eyes, nose, bronchial tubes and on the skin.
Once an allergy has developed, each and every other time the body comes into contact with the allergen it causes a defence reaction to take place. Even the smallest amounts of the allergen can trigger this effect.
About 5 to 10% of adults and 10 to 15% of children have an allergy.
The allergic reaction normally develops in the organs where the allergens are taken in e.g. in the skin, intestinal mucous membrane, eyes etc.. Typical symptoms of an allergy are watery eyes, running nose, asthma attack with difficulty breathing, diarrhoea, rash, redness and itching of the skin.
Which substances can trigger an allergy?
Pollen, insecticides, mould, animal hair, medication and foods are the most common trigger factors of allergies.
Causes of Allergies
The tendency of getting an allergy is most likely inherited. It is being discussed whether allergy-provoking substances (job, environment) particularly toxins in the environment and nutritional substances cause allergies.
- Allergen elimination:
The most important method when treating allergies is the avoidance of allergens which trigger the allergy.
- Allergen-desensitizing treatment:
The body slowly gets used to the substances which trigger the allergy. In addition to this, small amounts of the allergen are administered. This leads to a decreased allergic reaction. This kind of treatment normally takes two to three years.
- Antihistamines etc.:
The body’s reaction to the allergy can be suppressed by taking different types of medication (antihistamines, cortisone).
The Parent's Guide to Food Allergies : Clear and Complete Advice from the Experts on Raising Your Food-Allergic Child
Food Allergies and Food Intolerance : The Complete Guide to Their Identification and Treatment
The Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook: Two Hundred Gourmet & Homestyle Recipes for the Food Allergic Family