05/12/2022
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What is an allergy? – Health – 2022

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What is an allergy?

An allergy is a kind of misfire or overreaction of our immune system. It is not entirely clear why the immune system of allergy sufferers reacts to certain substances that are harmless in themselves, such as pollen or animal hair.

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What is an allergy?

An allergy is a kind of misfire or overreaction of our immune system. It is not entirely clear why the immune system of allergy sufferers reacts to certain substances that are harmless in themselves, such as pollen or animal hair.

What the immune system has to do with allergies

To understand allergies, you first need to know how our immune system works. The white blood cells in our body, which are also called leukocytes, are responsible for constantly searching the organism for dangerous invaders and pathogens – such as bacteria or viruses. Different organs in our body produce up to 100 billion of these white blood cells every day. If they find a pathogen in the body, they immediately go about their work and eliminate the pathogen. If we have caught a cold or are otherwise ill with viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites, our body immediately ramps up the production of our own defense cells. The number of white blood cells can then increase tenfold. The defense army is arming itself. Our immune system is the essential factor for our health.

What happens with an allergy?

When you have an allergy, the white blood cells seem to be a little out of control. Because in allergy sufferers, the immune system suddenly reacts not only to pathogens, but to substances that are harmless in themselves. This can include grass pollen, cat hair, fungal spores or house dust mites. When the body comes into contact with these allergens, it forms specific antibodies against them in allergy sufferers, which immediately set the immune system to defend itself and fight as soon as the organism comes into contact with the substance again.

In summary, this means the following:

  • In allergy sufferers, the body forms antibodies against harmless substances.
  • If the body comes into contact with the same allergen again, the T-lymphocytes immediately recognize the allergen as a “bad intruder” and release special messenger substances.
  • Our body then produces immunoglobulin, which flows to certain blood cells (mast cells).
  • These blood cells now react to the immunoglobulin as if they were a dangerous invader and release a defense cocktail that includes histamine, among other things.
  • This defense mechanism now destroys the cell membrane, causing the leukocytes to migrate into the tissue and the blood vessels to dilate.
  • This causes the well-known allergy symptoms such as redness, itching, sneezing, coughing or itchy eyes.

The consequence of this process is that allergy sufferers develop chronic inflammation on the body surfaces that are in contact with the environment.

Those affected by allergies

Allergies are increasingly being found in modern industrialized countries. Experts therefore repeatedly establish a connection between increased to excessive hygiene, environmental influences and changes in food and allergies. The theory of increased hygiene as an allergy promoter involves assuming that the immune system is less well trained to actually deal with invaders in the body. This theory is also supported by expert opinions, which assume that too few illnesses in childhood allow the immune system to react excessively in adulthood. According to current research, people in industrialized countries are often affected by allergies. In our latitudes this means:

  • Around 30 percent of adults are affected by an allergy in the course of their lives
  • Women are affected more often than men
  • An allergy can be detected in around 26 percent of children and adolescents
  • The most common allergic reaction is a runny nose
  • Other common allergic reactions are asthma and contact allergies

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