Allergens are usually to blame for the sneezing, sniffling and overall misery of allergy season, but technically they’re not the culprits. The real answer is your immune system’s reaction to allergens in the air.
Allergens enter the body through a variety of ways, but the ones causing those pesky seasonal allergies are usually inhaled by the nose and into the lungs. According to the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library, the immune system can mistake these allergens for a serious threat and respond with its ‘attack-mode,’ resulting in the sneezing and sniffling to rid the body of that threat. The immune system is really just doing its job; fighting invader infectious microorganisms that threaten the body. However, when it comes to hay fever, the immune system reacts differently for every person.
This is because the IgE (immunoglobulin E) antibody produced by the body, and commonly linked to allergic reactions, reacts in unique ways to certain pollens and allergens. This may explain why someone is bothered by one type of pollen or allergen, but not another. Whenever the body is exposed to these allergens or feels susceptible to an ‘attack’, it produces corresponding IgE antibodies to fight the invader. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology explains that these antibodies (IgE) travel to the cells the release chemicals, causing an allergic reaction. Symptoms of an allergic reaction will vary depending on the type and amount of the encountered allergen and the body’s overall reaction. However, typically the body’s reaction usually causes symptoms in the nose, lungs, throat, sinuses, ears, lining of the stomach, or on the skin.
But don’t get too angry at your immune system just yet. Technically, it could be your parents’ immune systems that made your reactions worse or better than your neighbors. Evidence shows that your risk of developing an allergy starts in your genes and allergic diseases are largely induced by genetic predisposition and/or environmental exposure. The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health indicates that both genetic predisposition and environmental factors, such as air pollution or geographic region, are factors in determining allergy prevalence. Children with one allergic parent have a 33 percent chance of developing allergies; with two allergic parents, it’s a 70 percent chance, according to the Pediatric Lung Center. However, though a child may have a higher chance of developing allergies, they do not necessarily develop the same ones as their parents. The development of specific allergies depends on multiple factors, such as exposure to allergens, length of exposure, types of allergens, timing, intensity, and genes.
Common sources of pollen allergens include trees, grasses and weeds. While the categories of airborne allergens are few, the types of plants that can produce allergy triggers are numerous and vary drastically across the country. Airborne particles can be carried by the wind for significant distances (think miles!) so it is imperative to not only keep an eye out for local pollen counts and environment conditions but to also stay privy to the statewide and regional conditions as well.
But if you’re thinking that your allergies will be over when everything stops blooming or when winter finally blows through—you’re wrong.
Indoor allergens can be a hefty contributor to an allergy reaction. Household dust, pet dander, mold spores, and cockroach droppings—can all set off indoor allergies. The Mayo Clinic says by regularly cleaning all carpeted areas in a home, washing the bedding, having floors vacuumed with a HEPA (high efficiency particle air vacuum) and eliminating mold, indoor allergens can be reduced.
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