Allergies and The Immune System: What You Need to Know
Published Sept 6, 2021
Allergies and immune systems are interrelated to one another. This is because allergies occur when your immune system overreacts to things you’re allergic to. Moreover, our immune responses are to blame for any allergic reactions as they are one of the most common recurring diseases that many people get.
Take note that if you have a family history of allergies, you are at an increased risk of developing allergic reactions. Fortunately, some allergies are seasonal and may go away as time passes.
Understanding The Immune System
Every person’s immune system is different as some have weaker immune systems than others. As people get older, the immune system grows stronger. Our immune system consists of cells that protect the body from any threatening germs that they encounter. Additionally, it is designed to recognize germs like viruses, bacteria, or toxins that may be harmful to the body and destroy them. When the immune system detects an allergen, they produce IgE antibodies that fight the bacteria.
Furthermore, the body’s immune system consists of lymphoid organs that develop lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are cells that recognize previous harmful germs. Lymphoid organs can be found in different parts of the body as stated below:
- Blood vessels
- Bone marrow
- Peyer’s patches
- Lymph nodes
- Lymphatic vessels
A person becomes allergic when their body develops antigens, and their immune system recognizes and attacks it even if the substance is harmless. We can get severe allergic reactions from food, air, or whatever comes into contact with our bodies. Even common substances like dirt can activate allergies.
Here are some of the most common allergens to take note of:
- tree nuts
- crustacean shellfish
Other possible allergens:
- pet fur
- insect stings and bites
- plant pollens
- household chemicals
- metals like nickel, cobalt, chromium, and zinc
Children, teens, adults, and elders are all prone to suffering from allergies. However, developing allergic diseases are very common in children since their immune systems are also evolving. The common types of allergic diseases for children are allergic asthma, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), atopic dermatitis, and food allergy.
Take note, though, that people can still develop allergies regardless of their age.
Allergy Symptoms To Look Out For
The symptoms of allergic reactions depend on how much the person intake and the type of allergy the person has.
According to NHS UK, the common symptoms of an allergic reaction include:
- itchy, sneezing, blocked nose, or runny nose (allergic rhinitis)
- red, dry, and cracked skin
- itchy, red, watering eyes (conjunctivitis)
- chest tightness, wheezing, shortness of breath
- a raised, itchy, red rash (hives)
- swollen lips, tongue, eyes, or face
- diarrhea or vomiting
Defining Anaphylactic Shock
Anaphylactic shock, or anaphylaxis, is a severe, life-threatening reaction. Anaphylaxis is rare and doesn’t affect most people, unlike typical allergies. This condition affects the body quickly and develops within just a few minutes of exposure. Symptoms of a typical allergy are also common symptoms of anaphylaxis.
These are the advanced symptoms that anaphylactic shock may bring:
- difficulty breathing
- swelling of the throat and mouth
- collapsing and losing consciousness
- blue skin or lips
Anaphylactic shock can develop quickly and can cause death, so it requires immediate attention and treatment. It may be caused by an allergic reaction to a food, serum, drug, insect venom, allergen extract, or chemical.
Allergies And Immune Systems: Treatments
There is no cure for allergies, but you can minimize the symptoms with treatment or shots. Additionally, you may also stop having allergic reactions by simply avoiding what you’re allergic to. To specifically determine what you’re allergic to, you can go to your doctor and ask them to run some tests for allergies.
Medication For Allergies
Many allergy medications are now available over the counter, like antihistamines. Consider consulting your doctor before taking any medicine for your safety.
Here are the common medications for allergies:
- Leukotriene receptor antagonists (antileukotrienes)
Treatment For Anaphylactic Shock
Anaphylactic shock is a life-threatening allergic reaction that needs immediate treatment. People with anaphylaxis may require hospitalization since this can worsen quickly and cause death.
Anaphylaxis can be treated using an auto-injector recommended by the FDA. The epinephrine in the auto-injector prevents severe symptoms from occurring. Two epinephrine auto-injectors are advised to be carried by people who experienced an anaphylactic shock. Many different types of injectors can be used for anaphylaxis-prone people like EpiPen.
Allergies And Immune Systems: Takeaway
Allergies and immune systems protect our bodies by letting us know when we come in contact with a substance that is giving us an allergic reaction. Unfortunately, allergies and anaphylaxis don’t have a cure. You can only manage the symptoms that it may bring by taking medications, treatments, or getting shots. If you experience the symptoms mentioned above and think you’re having allergic reactions, you can go to your doctor, request an appointment, and run some tests to confirm.