The Biological and Environmental Causes of Allergies
Allergies are a serious health issue that affects a significant part of the Canadian population, with symptoms that can range from those that are annoying to those that can be debilitating. Allergies come in different forms, but those affecting the respiratory system, such as hay fever, are the most prevalent, affecting one in five citizens of Canada. Those with allergies can experience nasal drip, watery eyes, swollen cheeks, headaches, fatigue and lapses in concentration, and occasionally feel ill enough to miss work or school.
An allergy is essentially a reaction by the human body to certain foreign substances. Known as allergens, these substances may be natural to the environment or may be a byproduct of manufactured items. The allergic reactions stem from physical contact between an allergen and mast cells that are located in the lining of certain organs of the body, including the nose, lungs and intestines. The actual chemical reaction occurs when antibodies that are produced by the body react to the allergen, leading to the release of histamine, a chemical that is normally present in mast cells. Histamine will in turn trigger the symptoms that are familiar to allergy sufferers.
Types Of Allergens
The most common allergens are pollen grains emanating from trees, plants, grass and weeds, which are more abundant at certain times of the year. It is for this reason why allergies are usually seasonal, with spring and fall normally the worst times due to changes in vegetation that take place during those seasons. However, some allergies continue throughout the year, brought about by elements that are constantly present, including air pollution and animal dander.
Allergens In YOur Homes
Dust is a major cause of many allergies and also of asthma, which is a type of allergy that exclusively affects the respiratory system. Often present in dust are mites that feed off waste products. These tiny creatures can be found in pillows, mattresses, carpets and stuffed toys, and thrive in areas of high humidity. In homes with pets, house dust can also contain animal dander that is comprised of dead skin and hair and which is a major allergen. Another cause of many allergic reactions is exposure to molds, many types of which are in existence. Usually found in homes located in rainy or humid regions, mold itself flourishes in parts of a home where there is a presence of water. Food allergies involve an immune system reaction to a particular protein, and contact dermatitis is a reaction by the skin to a chemical or some other irritant. Some individuals may have allergic reactions to certain types of medications, particularly antibiotics, and which appear as a rash.
There are a number of factors that can increase a person’s propensity to allergies, and family history appears to be an important indicator. A simple skin test can reveal whether a person is allergic to a given substance. Treatment normally consists of injections of allergens that will continue until the body no longer reacts to them, a process that could take months or years. More information about allergies can be obtained from articles listed at: