What is an Allergy and What Causes It?
When an allergic reaction occurs, your body reacts in an overly sensitive way to a stimulus that is probably not that harmful in the first place. This is because your immune system wants to take all possible measures to kick out the cause of allergies from your body. So the material that causes your immune system to react this way is called an allergen.
There are many different types of allergens that can cause allergies in different people. Some allergies also flare up according to what season it is. The spring season, for example, is widely known as allergy season because of all the newly blooming flowers and their pollen floating around in the air that causes allergic reactions in many people.
Whenever one of these allergens comes into contact with your body, your immune system gets jump-started into action. Amidst the hostility, your immune system releases chock full of histamines into your bloodstream, that causes all kinds of symptoms that are common to allergies. This is why taking antihistamines is known for reducing the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
How Do Allergens Cause and Allergic Reactions?
There are many ways an allergen can affect our system from the environment. Since our body has a lot of ways for an allergen to enter inside and flare up our histamine production. Here are some of the ways that allergens can enter inside our body and cause an allergic reaction:
- Through nasal passages
- By ingestion
- By injection
- Absorption of allergens through skin
Firstly, the nasal passages are the most common way for contracting an allergen into your body. There is a vast abundance of very tiny allergenic particles floating throughout the air at any one given moment. There is a lot of dust particles, pet hair, and dander, spores, pollen from flowers and other things that are floating in the air and can easily get inside the nose.
Ingesting allergenic foods is another cause of a major allergic reaction occurring in your body. There are a lot of foods that are culprits of food allergies like shellfish, soy products, milk and dairy products, wheat products, nuts (specifical peanuts) allergies etc. When you ingest these materials in a meal, you will start seeing symptoms of an allergy.
Even some medications can cause allergic reactions when ingested. Some people are allergic to medicines like penicillin or clindamycin, both of which are antibiotics. So for those people, it is always best to avoid these medications.
Another way an allergen can enter inside of your body and cause an allergy is being injected into your bloodstream. This happens while administering some medicine by mode of injection, but it also happens when venomous insects inject you with their deadly poisons
Lastly, allergens can even enter your body by mode of absorption through any part of your skin. For these allergens, simply coming into physical contact with them from the outside can result in a reaction.
Plants like poison ivy are notorious for causing really bad allergic reactions merely by touching them. Sometimes people are even allergic to synthetic products like latex, certain types of metals, and ingredients in most beauty products etc.
The Specific Symptoms of Allergy Accordingly
Following are just a few of those dreaded symptoms that a person suffering from allergy has to deal with:
- Itching- either all around the surface area of the body or just one localized area.
- Eyes getting teary
- Itchiness of the skin
- Excessive sneezing
- Watery and running nose
- Redness and rashes all over skin
- Rashes with pronounced red patches
- Pain in the stomach region
- Gassiness and bloating
- Swelling of body parts
- Swelling and itching of tongue
- Excessive coughing fits
- Swelling and closing up of throat
- Sharp sounds while breathing
- Tightness in the chest
- Feeling like fainting
- Feeling of apprehensiveness, like something bad is going to happen
The most severe symptom and reaction of an allergy is anaphylaxis. But anaphylaxis is very threatening and fatal and should be given treatment immediately to prevent any big loss or damage. The symptoms of anaphylaxis are varied from person to person and can involve multiple body parts like the skin, heart, stomach etc.
How Allergy Symptoms Start Manifesting
After being exposed to a substance that your body sees as a threat, and therefore an allergen, your body starts producing large amounts of histamines to counter the perceived threat by the allergen.
When a large number of histamines is released into your body, the allergic reaction starts taking place and all the symptoms start manifesting themselves. Usually, there is a set pattern to how these symptoms manifest themselves and progress in intensity gradually.
At the start of an allergic attack, usually, the very first symptom to show itself is itchiness of the eyes. After that, the next symptom that usually manifests is swelling in the face, sometimes concentrated to one portion of the face and at other times around the entire area of the face.
The swelling usually mostly affects the lips and eyes when the allergic reaction starts. Sometimes the itching sensation spreads from just the eyes to the rest of the body. Many people report feeling intense itchiness on their entire body at the onset of an allergic reaction.
Along with the itchiness, the next symptom that usually manifests in progression is the hives, which means red dotted patches on the skin. Many times the symptoms progress into a feeling like having flu.
These flu resembling symptoms include coughing, soreness in the throat, a feeling of fever, and a feeling of fatigue and lethargy. When this happens, usually many people also experience other flu-related symptoms like a runny nose and sneezing.
It is important to learn about your specific allergy and the progression that your allergic symptoms take during an allergic reaction. Knowing how your allergy works can help you get the medical help you need in time.