What is an Allergy?
The immune system is a complex network of specialized organs and cells that defend the body against foreign invaders, like toxins, viruses, or even other humans’ blood and tissue cells. When exposed to outside elements like bacteria or viruses, the immune system activates white blood cells, creating antibodies to fight off these invaders.
An allergy is a hypersensitivity disorder of the immune system in which the body reacts against a normally harmless substance. Some common allergy triggers include pollen, fur, foods, insects, drug, latex and dust.
What is an Allergic Reaction (Allergy Attack)?
An allergic reaction occurs when a person's immune system mistakes an allergen, or normally harmless substance as an invader and produces antibodies called "immunoglobulin E,” more commonly known as "IgE" to attack and protect itself. An allergic reaction occurs when a person touches, swallows or inhales an allergen.
When antibodies find an allergen, they alert the mast cells. These specialized blood cells release chemicals such as histamine. When the immune system releases histamines into the body, a person may develop allergy symptoms such as runny nose, swelling in the nasal passages, watery eyes, hives or wheezing.
Sometimes reactions occur in multiple places in the body and cause anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can be fatal. During anaphylaxis welts or hives may appear, spasm in the lungs may cause coughing or wheezing and or the throat and tongue may swell. Seek medical attention immediately.
Avoidance is the best defense against allergies but most allergy patients cannot avoid encountering their allergy triggers For the allergy sufferers that can not avoid their triggers, doctors may prescribe medication to relieve allergy symptoms. Some common medications prescribed are anti-inflammatory, leukotriene modifers, long-acting beta2 agonists and short-acting beta2 agonists. Allergy medications will help relieve symptoms, but they cannot alter the body's natural allergy immune response. If allergy symptoms cannot be controlled or if someone is at risk of anaphylaxis, allergy shots may be prescribed. Allergy shots may put a person's allergies into remission.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with an allergist, call Alabama Allergy & Asthma Center at 205-871-9661.