The Story Behind Allergies

Allergies can be seasonally related, such as sinus issues in the spring, or can be continuous, like an allergy to dog or cat dander. Either way, countless people live with allergies that negatively affect their daily life. Allergies can be uncomfortable and unpleasant, interfering with your work and activities. While many people seek the help of an allergist to help treat their symptoms, such as the experienced and trusted professionals at Piedmont Ear Nose and Throat, they may be curious as to what the actual cause of their allergies may be.

What Actually Causes Allergies?

Although the obvious suspect for the cause of allergies are the allergens themselves, the cause of a reaction is not that simple. Allergens themselves are inert, meaning that they don’t possess any inherently harmful properties that provoke a reaction. This is the reason that some people can be happy cat owners while others sneeze and cough at the slightest contact with cats or their dander. What causes allergies is an individual’s own immune system. The immune system, tasked with the important job of guarding the body against harmful pathogens, mistakes these otherwise harmless substances as potential threats to the body’s well being. This produces an immune response, causing a variety of symptoms such as:

  • Mucus
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Itching
  • Appearance of rashes or hives
  • Watering eyes
  • Inflammation

After being exposed to an allergen for the first time, an individual’s body recognizes some component of it as an unfriendly invader. The immune system flags it as harmful and creates antibodies, causing the body to become sensitized to this substance. The next exposure causes an allergic reaction, kicking the immune response into action and releasing antibodies in a misguided attempt to attack the allergen.

Who is at Risk for Developing Allergies?

Since the cause of allergies is related to the improper functioning of the immune system, it is clear that there is a physical predisposition toward developing allergies. Genetics, as with many medical conditions, plays a large role in determining who will suffer from this condition. Although genes don’t determine which substances a person will develop allergies to, the tendency toward having a hyper-sensitive immune system seems to be somewhat dictated by DNA. However, even if an individual has a family history of allergies, this still doesn’t mean that he or she will invariably develop allergies. Coming into contact with irritants when the immune system is weakened, perhaps after suffering an illness or extreme fatigue, seems to increase the risk of developing allergic sensitivities.

It is important to take note of your allergy symptoms and take your condition seriously. Scheduling an appointment with an experienced Atlanta allergist or ear, nose and throat doctor will ensure that you receive the proper evaluation and care related to your allergic condition. Allergies can become more severe over time if left untreated, so seeking medical attention as soon as possible not only makes your life more comfortable in the present, but can also save you from more serious complications in the future.