Spring Is Here.. And So Are Allergies!

Apr 6, 2017 By Deepa Gopal
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Are you pulling out the last tissue from the box, as you sneeze or wipe a runny nose!

We all look forward to spring, but many of us dread the allergies.

Allergies are an abnormal response by the body's immune system to things that are typically harmless to most people. Your immune system mistakenly believes that the substance is harmful to your body. Substances that cause allergic reactions, such as certain foods, dust, plant pollen, or medicines, are known as allergens.

How Our Body Responds

Normally when our body encounters viruses and bacteria, it invokes a “Type 1” immune response. Here the antibodies directly kill the pathogens -- virus, bacterium or other microorganism, and the human cells they infect.

However, for allergies, our body reacts with a “Type 2” response, where the body’s protective barriers are strengthened to repel the germs. The idea is that smaller pathogens (like virus and bacteria) can be offensively attacked and killed, but it is smarter to fight larger ones defensively.

In an attempt to protect the body, the immune system produces IgE antibodies when it encounters allergens. These antibodies then cause certain cells in the body to release chemicals into the bloodstream, one of which is histamine (pronounced his-tuh-meen). Histamine acts on the eyes, nose, throat, lungs, skin, or gastrointestinal tract and causes the symptoms of the allergic reaction.

Future exposure to the same allergen will trigger the antibody to respond again. So every time you come into contact with the allergen, you'll have an allergic reaction.

An Early Warning System?

Scientists believe that allergies are beneficial to the human body. When the body makes mucus, has a runny nose, sneeze or cough, it is actually preventing the body from exposure to the irritant. The good thing about allergies is that as soon as the exposure to the allergen is stopped, the symptoms are gone.

Research also suggests that childhood environment shapes allergy risk. Also known as hygiene hypothesis, the theory suggests that children who grow up in farms and are exposed to many microorganisms, are less likely to develop asthma and allergies. These individuals encounter a multitude of bacteria and viruses early in life and are programmed to adjust to them early.

So the next time you have that sneeze or sniffle, remember your body is warning you to steer clear of allergens.