Can Allergies Weaken Your Immune System? Reviewing The Science
An allergic reaction occurs when a person’s immune system is hypersensitive to certain substances, which are normally considered harmless substances. Not everybody gets allergies, and some people are allergic to only certain substances1. Allergies can affect anyone at any age without any consideration of gender, race, or financial status. Generally, allergies are more common in children. However, a first-time occurrence can happen at any age or recur after many years of remission.
Allergy Classes and their Symptoms
Allergy symptoms range from very mild to life-threatening. They are classified as mild, moderate, or severe. In mild reactions, the symptoms include a rash, red watery eyes, and a runny nose. These symptoms are local and may last for a few minutes to a few hours and are self-limiting, requiring no medical treatment. In the case of moderate reactions, the symptoms are quite similar but appear on a larger part of your body. They may include swelling of the throat and heavy breathing. Some medication may help may be necessary to reduce the severity of these symptoms.
A severe reaction which is called anaphylaxis is rare but a life-threatening emergency condition. Anaphylaxis often starts with severe itching of your eyes or swelling of the face, and within a very short time, more acute symptoms appear, including stomach ache, nausea, vomiting, and difficulty in swallowing and breathing. You may also suffer from shock and confusion. There may be a sudden drop in blood pressure which may lead to dizziness. Anaphylactic shock is a serious, life-threatening condition it requires immediate medical support; otherwise, it can lead to severe illness, including death.
Types of Allergies and their Treatment
You can be allergic to a wide variety of substances. Following are the most common causes:
Seasonal allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, is an allergic response to pollen. It causes inflammation and swelling of the lining of your nose and the protective tissue of your eyes. Symptoms include sneezing, congestion, itchy, watery eyes, nose, and mouth. Treatment options include over-the-counter and prescription oral antihistamines and nasal steroids. One should avoid pollen by wearing a mask and staying indoors when pollen counts are high.
Dust mites are very small insects that thrive in live in grime and dust. They can be found in carpets, sofa, bed linen, and upholstery. Dust mites thrive in humid and warm spots. Dust mite allergy has similar symptoms to that of pollen allergy. Frequently clean and vacuum carpets and sofa and avoid keeping any area damp. Treatment may include medications to manage your nasal pathways and eye irritations.
Molds are tiny spores that float in the air like pollen. Mold is often a cause common for allergies. Mold can be found indoors in warm damp areas and also outdoors in the garden shed around manure and dung. Mold allergy increase during hot, humid summer months. Treatment may include medications to control your nasal pathways, watery and itchy eyes, and chest symptoms. Immunotherapy may be recommended if your symptoms are not adequately managed by simple medicines.
The secretions of the pet animals’ sweat glands and saliva are a cause of allergic reactions. Many pets also shed dander which is another cause of allergy. Since people are reluctant to remove pets from their homes, it is recommended to keep your pet at least out of your bedroom and wash them frequently. Treatment may include medications to control your nasal pathways and eye irritations.
Some people are allergic to latex. Rubber gloves, such as those used in the home or a medical environment, are a major source for causing this type of allergy. Skin rash, eye irritation, and itching of the skin may occur if you come in contact with latex products and you have a latex allergy. These reactions can be minor such as slight swelling or redness of the skin. But much more severe reactions can occur during a medical procedure where the contact area with latex is large. Before beginning the treatment, first, the latex products are removed from near the patient then the symptoms are taken care of.
Food allergies develop when your body wrongly determines a food as bad for your body, and it develops specific antibodies for that particular food. An allergic reaction occurs immediately after consuming the offending food, and symptoms can be severe. Peanuts, shellfish, and gluten are food common food allergies in adults. In children, they include a variety of food items, including nuts, milk products, eggs, wheat, etc. It is extremely important to avoid foods that cause allergy symptoms.
If you get a bee sting, a mild reaction may occur and include pain, swelling, and redness around the sting site. Such symptoms clear themselves within a few minutes to a few hours. However, in severe cases, you may have difficulty in breathing and swallowing, swelling around your face, anxiety, the quickening of the pulse, and dizziness with a significant drop in blood pressure. This can be a life-threatening condition, and you may need emergency medical attention.
Causes of Allergic Reactions
Allergic reaction is caused by substances that are called allergens. Allergens are common substances that are part of the biosphere which do not cause any adverse reaction to most people. However, certain people indicate an adverse reaction to one or more of these allergens by their immune system. The immune system tries to protect the body from harmful substances as it mistakenly considers these allergens to be dangerous and tries to destroy them.
However, some allergic conditions are quite violent and buildup very quickly and trigger a potentially fatal whole-body reaction known as anaphylactic shock, which, if not treated immediately may prove to be fatal. This is due to the overreaction of the immune system to the allergens by producing antibodies that release the histamines. The actual process in the body is quite complex, which results in this most severe allergic reaction.
Getting Rid of Allergies
Currently, there is no permanent cure for allergies. However, researchers continue to investigate, and there are some promising therapies. Most people can treat their allergy symptoms with household medications and remedies and also try to prevent their exposure to the allergens. Many people may outgrow their allergies, especially allergies that manifest during childhood. Around 85% of children outgrow allergies to milk, eggs, wheat, soy as they age. There is now immunotherapy treatment that helps reduce a person’s sensitivity to allergy symptoms.
Allergies and your Immune System
The purpose of the immune system is to defend your body from various bacteria, viruses, and fungi and to destroy them as they try to enter your body. If you do have ongoing allergies and you are unable to manage them effectively, it could result in weakening your immune system. This will make you more susceptible to viruses and other germs, that in turn, could flare your allergies into a viral or bacterial infection of the ear, eyes, or respiratory tract.
On the other hand, some studies explain that there is a relationship between persons who have strong allergies have a better defense against certain cancers. It appears that allergies enhance the body’s defense mechanisms. It makes your body more efficient in identifying and removing cancer-causing toxins2. Many experts believe that allergies are not a sign of a weak immune system. It is the opposite, as the allergies are caused by your immune system trying to protect you but act too strongly for your benefit.
The most important step a person can take to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid the allergens that trigger their allergy. Avoiding allergens is not always practical or possible, like being allergic to your pet’s allergens or living in a city with too much pollen in the air. In these cases, a doctor can help prepare an allergy management plan to reduce allergen contact and manage symptoms with medicines.
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