What are allergies?

An allergy is a catch-all word for a wide variety of reactions to substances such as pollen, cat hair, or other substances that the body determines to be foreign. Statistics state that nearly 15 percent of the current population suffers from allergies, and in some cases serious allergies.

What are allergies?

+ Allergies are the result of a hypersensitive immune system. The allergic immune system misidentifies an otherwise innocuous substance as harmful, and then attacks the substance with a ferocity far greater than required. Allergic people are hypersensitive to some elements that most people find innocuous or harmless. Common allergic triggers include pollen, cigarette smoke, dust mites, feathers and animal hair or dandruff, certain foods, house dust and, in some mere cases, contact with very cold air or water can cause an allergic reaction.


Some of the most common allergic reactions include:

  1. Seasonal sinus allergies. This allergy, also known as “hay fever”, is the most common. Symptoms include: sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy, watery eyes and itchy mouth, ears and throat. Exposure to pollen and dust mites can trigger hay fever or seasonal allergies. Dust mites are microscopic organisms that live in house dust, a mixture of potentially allergenic materials including fibers from different fabrics, dandruff from animals, bacteria, mold or fungus spores.
  2. Asthma. Though asthma is not always triggered by allergies, it is related to them. Most adults with asthma have an allergy-related condition. During an asthma attack the lining of the airways becomes swollen or inflamed and the cells that line the airways produce more mucus, which is thicker than normal. Symptoms include frequent cough, shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness, pain, or pressure.
  3. Food allergies. The body often reacts to foods, although only a small amount of those reactions are true allergies that are involved with the immune system. The most common allergies are to foods including milk, chocolate, eggs, fish, shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts and other types of nut.
  4. Skin allergies. Atopic eczema and allergic contact dermatitis occur in people who are allergic to a specific ingredient or ingredients in a product. Symptoms include inflammation, redness, swelling, itching, and hive-like breakouts.
  5. Allergic reactions to insect stings. Bee, wasp, yellow jacket, hornet or fire ant stings most often trigger allergic reactions. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, called an “anaphylactic reaction”, may include: difficulty breathing, hives that appear as a red, itchy rash and spread to areas beyond the sting, swelling of the face, throat or mouth tissue, wheezing or difficulty swallowing, in extreme cases putting the sufferer at risk of death.


Anaphylaxis is the word used for a serious and rapid allergic reaction usually involving more than one part of the body which, if severe enough, can kill. When exposed to a severe allergen the sufferer may have a severe allergic response, also known as anaphylaxis. In the case of anaphylaxis it's necessary to get immediate, emergency medical attention for an adrenaline or cortisone shot. If the severe allergic response is caused by an insect bite, do not touch the affected area, because it can cause the venom further penetrate to the skin.


  1. • One in every three people has suffered from allergies at some point in their lives.
  2. • Hay fever or seasonal allergy affects one in five people.
  3. • One in every five school children suffers from asthma, the most common causes are allergies.
  4. • One in every six children suffers from skin problems, in particular eczema, associated with some allergies.
  5. • One in every twenty people suffers from some type of skin eruption such as hives.
  6. • Food allergies are often worse, but fortunately they aren't frequent.
  7. • Allergic reactions from insect bites or bee stings affect ten percent of the population.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: