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What Are Allergies

          To understand what allergies are you first need to understand your immune system

The heart of your  immune system is the ability to distinguish between self and non-self. Virtually every body cell carries molecules that identify it as self. The body's immune defenses do not normally attack tissues that carry a self-marker. When immune defenders encounter cells or organisms carrying molecules that say "foreign," the immune troops move quickly to eliminate the intruders.

 

Any substance capable of triggering an immune response is called an antigen. Antigens can be a virus, a bacterium, a fungus, or a parasite. An antigen announces its foreignness by means of characteristic shapes called epitopes, which protrude from its surface.


Your immune system is designed to keep foreigners out. It's like a war.


The immune system stockpiles a tremendous arsenal of cells. In order to have room to match millions of possible foreign invaders, just a few of each type of antibody are stored. When an antigen appears, those matched cells multiply into a full-scale army. Antibodies belong to a family of large molecules known as immunoglobulins.

 

Immunoglobulins are proteins, made up of chains of amino acids. Scientists have identified nine chemically distinct classes of human immunoglobulins (Ig). Each type plays a different role in the immune defense strategy. IgE, which under normally occurs only in trace amounts, is the villain in allergic reactions. Each IgE antibody is specific; one reacts against oak pollen, another against ragweed.


The first time an allergy-prone person is exposed to an allergen, he or she makes large amounts of the corresponding IgE antibody. These IgE molecules attach to the surfaces of cells in the body. When an IgE antibody encounters its specific allergen, it signals the body to begin powerful chemical warfare. These chemicals include histamine, heparin, eosinophils, and neutrophils.


Your Body Knows these Symptoms……. Do You?


It’s really warfare, but to you, it may appear as one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Sneezing often accompanied by a runny or clogged nose

  • Coughing

  • Postnasal drip

  • Itching eyes, nose, or throat

  • Allergic shiners (dark circles under the eyes caused by increased blood flow near the sinuses)

  • The "allergic salute" (in a child, persistent upward rubbing of the nose that causes a crease mark on the nose)

  • Watering eyes

  • Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the membrane that lines the eyelids, causing red-rimmed, swollen eyes, and crusting of the eyelids).

If you suffer from some of these symptoms you just may have allergies.

 

Wishing you the best of health

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