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This probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard of them. Allergies are so common 20% of Americans have some kind of allergic reaction or another to certain external stimuli whether food, water, or air. But what are allergies? And why do we get them?

You know your allergies are starting up again if you experience swelling in parts of your body. This is called local or systemic inflammatory response, caused by the presence of allergens.

Allergies (Type I Hypersensitivity) are actually a malfunction of our immune system so that our body becomes hypersensitized and reacts immunologically to typically non-immunogenic substances. The substances that cause our bodies to become this way are called allergens.


In 1906, Viennese pediatrician, Clemens von Pirquet, first coined the term “allergies” after he observed that certain symptoms of his patients might have been a response to outside allergens, like dust, pollen, or certain foods.


On the other hand, if the allergies hit you in the eyes, redness and itching of the conjunctiva often follows. Other common signs of allergies are wheezing and dyspnoea, bronchoconstriction, and sometimes outright attacks of asthma. You may also experience various rashes, such as eczema, hives, and contact dermatitis.


Systemic allergic responses are more serious compared to local symptoms. Depending on the severity of your response, allergies can cause cutaenous reactions, bronchoconstriction, edema, hypotension, coma, and even death.


Hay fever is actually one example of minor allergies caused by airborne pollen. But aside from environmental factors, allergies may also be triggered by medications.


Why do we get allergies?


Our immune system is a well-trained and disciplined bio-weapon that protects our bodies from harmful substances. Its mechanics is so amazing that it can identify and destroy many foreign invaders. However, as amazing as our immune system is, it makes mistakes sometimes. And so we have allergies, which, as we mentioned, results from a hypersensitive immune system.

The hypersensitized immune system misidentifies an otherwise innocuous substance as harmful, and then attacks the substance with a degree of ferocity that is greater than required. As a result, we experience problems that can range from mildly inconvenient to uncomfortable to total failure of major organs of the body.


How does the immune system go into a hypersensitized state?


There are actually several ideas on this. Some schools premise that allergies are almost always triggered by protein. Certain persons have faulty genetic codes so that their lymphocytes or the white blood cells (the stuff that your immune system is made of) are unable to property distinguish between the threatening and the non-threatening proteins.


So, for example, when you ingest protein from shellfish, your lymphocytes think that the substance is trying to invade the body. As a result, they produce large amounts of antibodies which attach themselves to mast cells and basophils throughout the body. This is known as the sensitizing exposure and this is the very reason why you suddenly develop allergies.



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Wheat Allergies


Wheat is the staple of majority of American diets. But due to the recent furor about wheat allergies and its potentially deadly consequences, people have been randomly taking out these foods from their diet to the detriment of their own health.


Many claim that the allergic reactions are triggered by a protein, called gluten, found in wheat.


It should be noted, however, that wheat allergies are extremely rare. In fact, it is one of the rarest of all food allergies. When a person allergic to gluten encounters this protein, his immune system overreacts by producing huge amounts of antibodies, causing symptoms like stomach upset, eczema, hay fever, asthma, and even fatal anaphylaxis.


There are several methods by which you can control the symptoms of wheat allergies, but the best choice remains to be strict avoidance of wheat and wheat products. People who are allergic to wheat should avoid wheat all together and be vigilant in the kind of foods they eat.

Here are some tips to help you control wheat allergies:


Check the Label


When buying foods off grocery stores or food shops, be sure to check the label containing the list of ingredients used in making the product. Many processed foods, including ice cream and catsup, may contain wheat flour. And even if you’ve been using that product for some time now, don’t forego checking the label. Many manufacturers change their recipes occasionally, and a food that triggers your wheat allergies may be added to the new recipe.


Avoid Wheat-Containing Foods


This is actually easier said than done. Humans have been eating wheat for millennia and to suddenly stop now just to avoid getting wheat allergies may lead to drastic changes in your diet which may do you more harm than good. It is particularly difficult to avoid wheat-containing foods. In addition, modern food processing methods use various forms of wheat in hundreds, if not thousands of foods.


A wheat-free diet is very restricted. And if you’re highly allergic to wheat, you will have to restrict yourself with unprocessed fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and dairy products, nuts, fats and oils.


Below are examples of products and foods that may contain wheat and ones you ought to avoid:



Get Vitamin Supplements


The main problem that wheat allergic people are facing now is vitamin deficiency caused by the absence of wheat in their diet. Cereals and breads are important sources of dietary fiber, vitamins, especially the B vitamins and minerals. To make sure that you do not develop deficiencies if you have cut all wheat-containing foods out of your diet, it is advised that you consult a clinical dietician for supplements you may take.


Skin Allergies

Skin allergies are one of the most common causes of conditions of the skin. They are typically caused by a problematic immune system which becomes hypersensitive after being exposed to a certain substance which it views as “harmful” even though it isn’t. As a result, the next time these substances enter the body, the immune system releases vast amounts of antibodies, supposedly to combat these “harmful” substances, but in the process cause adverse reaction in other cells of the body.

The substances are called allergens and they can be anything from pollen breathed through the air, dust mites that thrive in carpets and furniture surfaces.

They are also encountered in pets, especially dogs and cats. With respect to skin allergies, they usually occur when skin comes into contact with skincare products containing allergens, cosmetics, perfumes, etc.


How do skin allergies work?


When the immune system encounters a substance that can potentially cause disease, it produces antibodies called IgG or immunoglobulin G and IgM or immunoglobulin M. With the production of these antibodies, the immune system now becomes sensitized and able to neutralize the substance, helping you to recover from the disease after a few days.


As time goes, your now sensitized immune system is ready to produce large amounts of antibodies rapidly the next time it encounters the same substance. This rapid production of antibodies makes you able to recover from the disease quickly, so that it’s possible you won’t even suffer any symptoms.


With skin allergies, on the other hand, the situation is a little different. When an allergen – for instance, a cosmetic ingredient – comes into contact with your skin for the first time, your immune system will also produce antibodies, only this time, instead of IgG and IgM, it produces IgE or immunoglobulin E.


The IgE will also bind itself with the cosmetic allergen and does the same thing it did with any normally harmful substance, prompting the sensitization process. Without this sensitization, no skin allergies occur.


Because the immune system has already been sensitized to the cosmetic allergen, the next time you get exposed to it, your body mass produces IgE, which then attach themselves to the allergens, and eventually the mast cells. The mast cells are a type of cell containing many chemicals that can cause inflammation, foremost among them is histamine. The IgE causes the mast cells to release these chemicals to surrounding tissue, causing inflammation, redness (erythema), and itching (pruritis) in the surface of the skin. The reaction that is seen on the skin surface is called a wheal or a hive and is considered as one of the common symptoms of skin allergies.


Types of Skin Allergies


There are three main types of skin allergies: food allergy, contact dermatitis, and atopy or allegic inhaled dermatitis. Skin allergies can be caused by an allergic reaction to ingredients or preservatives in food, such as horse meat, beef, pork, eggs, fish, chicken, corn, soy, preservatives and dyes, dairy products, poultry products, etc.


Contact dermatitis is a type of skin allergies caused by allergens coming into direct contact with the skin. Common among these allergen types are poison ivy and ragweed. Ragweed can also be a cause of inhaled skin allergies, as well as, pollen, house dust, dust mites, mold, animal dander, feathers, grasses, trees, and shrubs.


Allergy Relief

Today, there are approximately 44 million people in the United States of America suffering from allergies and the numbers are increasing. Allergies are caused by hypersensitivity in the body’s immune system. The triggers could range from natural environmental factors like pollen, dust, mites, or mold to external factors that your body comes into contact with, such as food and chemicals in food.


Just as the cause of allergies can be varied, its signs and symptoms could also differ greatly. Some symptoms, like itching and swelling of the throat and nose discharge, are only mildly inconvenient. Others are uncomfortable, such as difficulty in breathing, diarrhea, and vomiting. But in extreme cases, allergies could cause unconsciousness, anaphylaxis (collapse due to allergies), and sometimes even death.


Treatment and Allergy Relief


One form of allergy relief or treatment for people with allergies is injections of small amounts of the substances they are allergic to. The method is called immunotherapy and it is based on the concept that once the immune system gets used to these substances, it will no longer overreact when they see them entering the body’s cellular structure.


But such allergic relief treatment can take time. With each allergy relief injection, the dose is increased, until the patient becomes hyposensitized (less allergic) to the allergens because then, the body becomes more tolerant of these offending substances. As a result, relief from allergy is at hand and the symptoms, including sneezing and watery eyes, plus the need for medication, are reduced or disappear.


Who Should Get the Allergy Relief Shots?


The obvious answer would be those people who very clearly have allergic reactions to certain types of food or environmental factors.

“Shots work extremely well in patients that clearly have allergic symptoms, either allergy in their nose like allergic rhinitis or bronchial asthma, where outdoor allergens like tree, weed and grass pollens seem to be a major cause,” says Stanley P. Galant, M.D., an allergist in Orange County, California, and a clinical professor and director of pediatric allergy at the University of California, Irvine.


He further adds that allergy relief shots don’t have quite the same effect on patients with allergies to molds, house dust mites (microscopic insects that feed on human skin cells found on furniture, bedding, and carpets), and animal dander (tiny skin flakes animals continually shed) as those allergic to outdoor allergens. However, with the standardization of extracts for cat dander and dust mites and overall better preparations have helped increase the odds.


Immunotherapy, however, is not used as an allergy relief unless skin tests or blood tests have been conducted and the exact culprits have been identified.


John Yunginger, M.D., a member of FDA’s Allergenic Products Advisory Committee and a pediatric allergist at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, says, “You have to show that (the patients) have IgE antibodies to the allergens in question.”


IgE, or immunoglobulin E, is an antibody that the immune system produces the first time it is exposed to an allergen. The next time the allergen is produced, massive amounts of these IgE released by the immune system are what triggers the allergic reaction.

Cat Allergy

According to a recent report, between six and ten million people (that’s approximately two percent of the population!) in the United States are allergic to cats or exhibit symptoms of cat allergy. However, people often misunderstand these symptoms. Majority believe that cat allergy are caused by allergens from the fur or cat dander (scales of the skin), when, in fact, most of the potent allergens come mainly from saliva and sweat.


For instance, if your allergies affect you in the nose, you will experience swelling of the nasal mucosa (allergic rhinitis). During this condition, you will probably find yourself performing the “nasal salute” more than necessary as itching of your nose will induce you to wipe your nose in an upward direction.


A cat’s saliva or sweat contains a protein with a carbohydrate structure called “Fel d 1.” It is an allergen that causes symptoms of cat allergy. “Fel d 1” is much smaller than pollen or mold spores, which are already very potent allergens because of their diminutive size, but because of its much smaller size, “Fel d 1” has even greater potential to cause an allergic reaction. “Fel d 1” can easily bypass nasal passages and lodges deep in the lungs, where it can cause allergic episodes and asthma.


Like pollen and mold spores, “Fel d 1” are airborne allergens. They are often microscopic and float in the air easily. After a cat licks itself while grooming, “Fel d 1” allergen is deposited on its fur and once that happens, the dried specks of saliva can float off and drift around your home. The protein allergen can be found anywhere as aside from being airborne, it attaches itself to walls, windows, and furniture. What is even more amazing is that this allergen can remain in your home for years after a cat leaves your home. So if you want to remove the allergen from your home to protect yourself from cat allergy, everything would have to be totally cleaned.




Like most allergies, cat allergy can affect your eyes, nose, ears, throat, lungs, and skin. The symptoms, especially respiratory reactions, usually occur between fifteen and forty minutes after one is exposed. However, note that pet-related allergies like cat allergy can take days from initial exposure for its onset.


The most common symptoms associated with cat allergy are:



How to Control Cat Allergy


Always the best way to control allergic reactions is avoidance method. However, majority of people with cat allergy often ignore medical advice and continue to keep at least one cat at home even after diagnosis of their condition. We all love our cats and we want to protect them, but you should think about yourself once in a while. Below are some tips to help you control your cat allergy even while keeping a cat home:


If symptoms persist even after following the tips provided above, then perhaps it’s time for you to consult a doctor for his advice on proper medication or immunotherapy.


Here are some related articles on allergies


Managing Skin Allergies - Odds are good that you know someone who suffers from food allergies – possibly a mild aversion to nuts, dairy, eggs, fish or some other food. You may even know someone who suffers from extreme allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis, and must carry an epinephrine injector with them at all times in case of such a reaction.


Mold Spores - Allergies are prevalent these days, not only in children but in adults as well. In fact, according to the FAAN (Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network) the prevalence of allergic reactions to peanuts has doubled over a period of five years.


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