Understanding allergies

Allergies are incredibly common – in fact, according to Allergy UK, 1 in 4 people in the UK will suffer from an allergy at some point in their lives. However, despite how common they are, not many people seem to know what an allergy actually is or what’s actually going on inside their body when allergies attack.

Allergies can be simply described as an abnormal response of the immune system. The allergy symptoms are a result of the immune system reacting adversely to a substance that would usually be completely harmless. This particular substance within certain environments is called an allergen, like pollen, pet dander or dust etc. It is still unknown why some people develop allergies, but they can occur to anyone of any age.

What is an allergy?

Our immune systems are amazing functions that protect our body against foreign substances in order to help our bodies fight infection and prevent illnesses. Sometimes, our immune system can overreact when it mistakes a harmless substance for a threatening one, causing an adverse reaction. Once the immune system has detected a harmless substance as threatening to the body, it begins to produce antibodies to attack it. This process then sets off a complex chain reaction that causes the release of a chemical called histamine. It is this particular chemical that sets off typical allergy symptoms like itchy eyes, runny noses and sneezing.

Common allergies:

There are many different substances that can cause an allergic reaction, but in usual circumstances these substances are considered to be completely harmless.

  • Pollen
  • Pets
  • House dust mites
  • Mould spores
  • Insect bites
  • Air pollution and irritants