Allergies often bring to mind sneezing, runny nose or watery eyes. While these are symptoms of some types of allergic disease, an allergic reaction is actually a result of a chain reaction that begins in your genes and is expressed by your immune system.
What causes Allergies
The substances that cause allergic disease in people are known as allergens. “Antigens,” or protein particles like pollen, food or dander enter our bodies through a variety of ways. If the antigen causes an allergic reaction, that particle is considered an “allergen” – and antigen that triggers an allergic reaction. These allergens can get into our body in several ways:
♦ Inhaled into the nose and the lungs. Examples are airborne pollens of certain trees, grasses and weeds; house dust that include dust mite particles, mold spores, cat and dog dander and latex dust.
♦ Ingested by mouth. Frequent culprits include shrimp, peanuts and other nuts.
♦ Injected. Such as medications delivered by needle like penicillin or other injectable drugs, and venom from insect stings and bites.
♦ Absorbed through the skin. Plants such as poison ivy, sumac and oak and latex are examples.
Role of Heredity in Allergy?
Like baldness, height and eye color, the capacity to become allergic is an inherited characteristic. Yet, although you may be born with the genetic capability to become allergic, you are not automatically allergic to specific allergens. Several factors must be present for allergic sensitivity to be developed:
♦ The specific genes acquired from parents.
♦ The exposure to one or more allergens to which you have a genetically programmed response.
♦ The degree and length of exposure.
A baby born with the tendency to become allergic to cow’s milk, for example, may show allergic symptoms several months after birth. A genetic capability to become allergic to cat dander may take three to four years of cat exposure before the person shows symptoms. These people may also become allergic to other environmental substances with age.
♦ Dust to control mites. By dusting surfaces and washing bedding often, you can control the amount of dust mites in your home.
♦ Vacuum often. Although cleaning can sometimes trigger allergic reactions, with dust in the air, vacuuming once or twice a week will reduce the surface dust mites. Wear a mask when doing housework and consider leaving for a few hours after you clean to avoid allergens in the air. You can also make sure your vacuum has an air filter to capture dust.
♦ Reduce pet dander. If you have allergies, you should avoid pets with feathers or fur like birds, dogs and cats. Animal saliva and dead skin, or pet dander , can cause allergic reactions. If you can’t bear to part with your pet, you should at least keep it out of the bedroom.
♦ Shut out pollen. When you clean your windows, do you see a film of pollen on the frame or sill? One easy way to prevent pollen from entering your home is to keep windows and doors closed. Use an air filter and clean it regularly or run the air conditioner and change the filter often.
♦ Avoid mold spores. Mold spores grow in moist areas. If you reduce the moisture in the bathroom and kitchen, you will reduce the mold. Fix any leaks inside and outside of your home and clean moldy surfaces. Plants can carry pollen and mold too, so limit the number of houseplants. Dehumidifiers will also help reduce mold.