What Is an Allergy and What Causes It?

An allergy, as defined by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, is a chronic overreaction of your immune system to a usually harmless substance. When your immune system comes into contact with the particular substance, it labels it as an invader and starts a chain reaction within your body. White blood cells begin producing abnormal quantities of a certain antibody which can end up releasing chemicals such as histamine. Thus, antihistamines can be an effective treatment for many forms of seasonal allergies.

Common allergens include:

  • Dust
  • Mold
  • Pollen
  • Insect venom
  • Pet dander
  • Foods like milk, peanuts, wheat and fish

Where Allergies Come From

Allergies can develop at any age, but you are not born with them. They first appear after your body comes into contact with a substance and becomes sensitized. Allergies are caused by different factors, such as over-exposure to a substance like latex. Genetics can also play a role if one or both of your parents have a history of allergies. Even if neither parent has an allergy however, you can still have about a 15% chance of developing one.

A strange statistic reported by the World Allergy Organization, is that the overall prevalence of allergies around the world is increasing. More children are becoming sensitized to a number of allergens, and as many as 30% of food allergic children have more than one food allergy, which, needless to say, is causing issues in schools.

Worldwide, at least 40% of school age children have been sensitized to at least one common allergen. Scientists are still working on understanding the cause of this phenomenon. But, maintaining a healthy diet and giving your children, and yourself, plenty of outdoor time in the sun and away from a screen couldn’t hurt!

Common allergic reactions include:

  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Asthma
  • Hay fever
  • Tearing eyes or dark circles under eyes
  • Sneezing or itchy nose, throat or eyes
  • Rashes, eczema or other skin issues
  • Food allergies have other symptoms including anaphylaxis, respiratory problems, vomiting and diarrhea depending on the severity of the allergy

If you begin noticing unusual side effects for yourself or your children, it is important to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible. Allergies may start out in an insignificant way, but can quickly escalate in severity, which is why it’s important to figure out what is causing your body to react, with the help of an allergist in Tysons Corner, VA from Black & Kletz Allergy, and do your best to avoid that substance, while keeping the proper medication nearby in extreme situations.