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Allergy - The Body's Reaction to Allergens

Last Updated: 7/18/2012
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Allergy Information - what are allergies.
Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis) or other respiratory allergies.
Asthma which can be triggered by allergies or weather (check your Weather Forecast!).
Treatment Options for Hay Fever.
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Scientists are unsure why some people have a heightened sensitivity to allergens, but they do know the ways in which the body reacts to increased allergen counts. What you feel when an allergen comes in contact with you is a result of the chain reaction to prevent an attack by a foreign substance. Those reactions cause the annoying symptoms we call allergies. These allergy symptoms, including hay fever, can be made to feel worse by the conditions of the recent weather forecast.

Your nose serves an important function for your lungs - it acts as a filter to clean entering air. Your nose will be assaulted by more allergens if the weather forecast predicts high wind and dry air. When the weather forecast says rain, breathing may be easier! Nose hairs trap airborne substances, including allergens, preventing them from reaching your lungs. Small quantities of harmless allergy particles, such as pollen, have no damaging effect on the lungs. This is because the nose's filtration process works to ensure nothing passes through their first line of defense. Only when harmful substances are present should the nerves cause a dilation of the blood vessels inside the nose to block entry to foreign particles.

This system works fine with non-allergic individuals during allergy season. However for allergy sufferers, the nose overdoes it and dilates the blood vessels unnecessarily. The result is the swelling, itching, and inflammation common to airborne allergy reactions. Hay Fever is a true suffering. These truly unlucky allergy sufferers also experience excess fluid (mucus) release, to the delight of tissue manufacturers worldwide!

Similar symptoms occur in the eyes. Your eyelids have the same job as your nose hairs in that they trap airborne substances, such as allergens. Overly protective defense reactions cause your eyes to turn red and itchy, as well as to produce an overabundance of tears. Check your local allergy report to see how the coming week's weather will affect you.

Controlling Histamine means Controlling Allergy Symptoms

The best way to understand how allergy drugs work is to first look at the label on your medicine. The word "antihistamine" will appear as part of the drug's name. This means the medicine has the ability to stop histamine (anti-histamine). But what is histamine? Where does it come from? And why does your medicine need to stop it?

Histamine is an inflammatory chemical that the body releases in the case of an allergic reaction. The release of histamine causes the dilation of capillaries, the contraction of smooth muscles (like the ones in your stomach and bladder), and the stimulation of gastric secretion. What gives the body the trigger to release such a chemical? The answer is the immune system.

The immune system protects your body against invading agents (like bacteria and viruses). In the case of allergies, your body reacts to a false alarm because airborne substances or other types of allergens that are usually not harmful. The immune system of the allergic person mistakenly considers allergens to be an invading agent, and tries to mobilize and attack. This is why those with allergies take medicine, to stop the release of histamine.

The agent in the body responsible for the attack is called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). IgE is an antibody (also a protein) that is released by the body in large amounts to battle the alleged invaders.

Your body is extremely complex. One of its capabilities is to store foreign agent information so it can remember what invading agents look like. The body can then respond much faster in the case of a second attack by the same agent. Your body creates a huge library of different types of IgE. The recognition is made because the structure of IgE and antigen are like a key fitting into a lock. So each key can only be used in one specific lock.

Where is the IgE protector found in the body? It is found attached to mast cells (tissue cells) and basophils (blood cells). When the allergen attaches to IgE it triggers a chain of reactions that results in histamine being released by mast cells or basophils. It is this unnecessary release of histamine that allergy medication (the anti-histamine) is designed to counteract.

You can check the severity of your allergy symptoms by visiting an allergy report that displays the allergy counts in your area on Pollen.com.

Any medical or health information included on Pollen.com is provided by IMS Health Incorporated, a non-medical professional organization. Information from external sources included on Pollen.com, including HealthDay News, are the responsibility of the third-party provider and not of IMS Health Incorporated.