If you have allergies, you may be surprised to learn that you weren’t born with them. Instead, you developed the condition when your immune system first came into contact with a triggering allergen. We review how this occurs below.
It Starts with the Immune System
The immune system’s job is to protect our bodies from infections, diseases and toxic substances. As molecules enter the body via the eyes, nose, mouth or skin, the immune system deems them either harmless or threatening.
If a substance is considered harmless, the body accepts it, which is known as a Type 1 immune response. The T cell is responsible for this process. However, if an allergen is labeled a threat, the body responds with a Type 2 immune response. This involves a T helper type 2 cell.
What Is Allergic Sensitization?
The first time your body is exposed to an allergen that produces a Type 2 response, it is known as allergic sensitization. This means the body keeps a lasting memory of the substance. When it comes into contact with the allergen in the future, IgE molecules release the inflammatory chemical histamine. Histamine causes inflammation, mucus production and itching.
Types of Allergic Responses
Allergies can manifest in a number of ways, including:
- Eczema (atopic dermatitis).
- Hay fever (allergic rhinitis).
- Allergic asthma.
- Food allergies.
How Can Allergies Be Treated?
Fortunately, there are many options for managing allergies. The first step is to get an allergy test, which will reveal exactly what substances you’re allergic to. After your allergy test, your allergist will discuss your options with you, which may include:
- Practicing avoidance. This is the best way to prevent allergy symptoms. Strategies include staying indoors when pollen counts are high, avoiding triggering foods, keeping your home and bedding clean, wearing masks and glasses at Piedmont Park and bathing pets regularly.
- Taking over-the-counter medication. Options include antihistamines, decongestants and corticosteroid nasal sprays.
- Immunotherapy. This treatment option involves reducing your symptoms by helping your body build up a tolerance to allergens over time.
For more information about allergy management options or to schedule an appointment with an allergy expert, call ENT of Georgia today.