We have discussed what is an allergy and the different types of allergies. And also the myths surrounding allergies. But how do allergies develop? Why is it that something completely harmless for one individual can be life-threatening for another.
What is an Allergic Reaction?
Triggers are often blamed, but it is the immune system that causes an allergic reaction. Most of the time, our bodies are equipped to tolerate the presence of allergens.
An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system overreacts to an allergen, considering it to be an invader. To protect the body, the immune system develops antibodies known as immunoglobulin E (IgE). Each time IgE is produced, the molecules attach themselves to mast cells. The mast cells are found in large numbers in the eyes, nose, lungs, intestines, and immediately beneath the skin. These cells release chemicals (including histamine, cytokines, and leukotrienes) into the bloodstream to defend against the “invader”. This can cause sneezing, a runny nose, itching, hives, or wheezing which are primarily known as allergy symptoms. Reactions are not limited to one part of the body. An allergy attack may cause hives, swelling of eyes along with wheezing.
The first time a person with an allergy is exposed to the allergen, it may not cause a reaction. However, the person gets sensitized to the allergen. Consequently, even minor future exposures could cause an allergic reaction.
Each time I had walnuts, I had an itchy throat. I dismissed it as just the texture of the nut, but it was an allergy developing. Now mere cross-contamination can send me into an anaphylactic shock.
What is Anaphylaxis?
Allergic reactions range from mild to severe depending on the symptoms. In extreme cases, allergies can trigger a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis. Body tissues swell up. These include those in the throat that causes difficulty in breathing. Anaphylactic shock also causes a sudden drop in blood pressure. If not treated immediately, it can cause brain damage, kidney failure, heart attack, or even death. This is a reality I live with every day. And the reason why I decided to create awareness about allergies.
Epinephrine can reverse the symptoms within minutes. Although anaphylaxis is rare, it is always best to be prepared. Allergy sufferers are advised to carry epinephrine medication at all times But it comes with its own side effects. Epinephrine increases blood pressure and can trigger strokes and heart attacks.
Do you suffer from allergies and are disappointed by the complete lack of awareness? Do you sometimes feel you are sitting on a time bomb? Follow the allergy awareness series to help create a safer place for people living with allergies.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical practitioner. The purpose of this series is to bring about awareness. Please consult an allergist/immunologist for queries and overall management of allergies.
As a part of Blogchatter’s Blogging with a Purpose campaign, I am using my voice to highlight something I care about.