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You may know the feeling. It often involves itchy eyes, a runny nose and sneezing. In some cases, maybe you get hives or a skin rash. If you sometimes suffer from the above symptoms, the culprit may be allergies. Allergies affect people of all ages and are very common.
Allergies can cause you to miss work, interfere with activities and make you miserable. In addition to annoying symptoms, allergic reactions can sometimes be life-threatening. Anaphylactic shock involves a severe allergic reaction, which can cause swelling of the throat and obstruct airflow.
What Causes Allergies?
You can thank your immune system for your allergy symptoms. Your immune system releases certain chemicals when it identifies a harmful substance has entered the body. These chemicals play a role in fighting off infection. But your immune system can overreact in some instance.
When you are allergic to a substance, such as pet dander, your immune system identifies that substance as harmful, even though it is not. An immune response is triggered, and chemicals called immunoglobulin E antibodies are released into the bloodstream. The antibodies travel to certain cells, which then produce histamines and, typical allergy symptoms may develop.
It’s difficult to say why some people are susceptible to allergies and some people are not. There does seem to be a hereditary link. For example, if you have a parent who has a peanut or other type of food allergy, you are at an increased risk of having an allergy.
According to UCLA Medical Center, about one in five people in the United States now suffer from allergies. One theory on why there is an increase in allergies is the widespread use of antibacterial soaps, cleaning products and hand sanitizers. Researchers theorize, using antibacterial products reduces exospore to pathogens in childhood, which may alter the normal development of the immune system.
Determining Your Allergy Triggers
Some allergies are seasonal while others may occur all year. Common causes of seasonal allergies include pollen and ragweed. Frequent causes of year-round allergies may include dust and pet dander. Some people are also allergic to certain foods, chemicals and molds.
Usually the first step in finding allergy relief is determining what you are allergic to. Together with your doctor you can determine what substance is causing your allergic reaction. This substance, called an allergen, may be easy to identify. For example, if you eat peanuts and develop sudden symptoms, such as hives or itching, you will know right away that you are allergic. In other instances, you may have sneezing and develop itchy eyes certain times of the year. Since there are many substances both inside and outside the home, it may take a little investigative work to determine what your allergens are.
Consider keeping track of what symptoms you develop, where you are and what you were doing. Keeping a record of symptoms will help you determine a pattern. Overtime, you should be able to narrow down what your allergens may be.