What are Allergies?

Allergies are hypersensitive immune responses to substances that either enter or come in contact with the body, such as pet dander, pollen or bee venom. This basically means that the immune system is doing its job too well and attacking harmless substances like pollen or pet dander. Or in some cases over reacting to them like bee venom and peanut allergies.

When an allergen comes in contact with a white blood cell, the cell begins to release certain chemicals that alert your body to take certain procedures. For me, when pollen enters my nose can comes in contact with my nasal walls, special cells called mast cells attempt to neutralize the “threat” by releasing histamine. Histamine is a compound that acts as a neurotransmitter that regulates physiological functions. In my case, histamine tells my nose to produce more mucus to flush out the allergen, hence the runny nose and sneezing. When an allergen comes in contact with your skin, redness and swelling is also common. That’s because histamine causes blood vessels to contract around the affected area, trapping the allergens making them unable to circulate through the body. This causes swelling as well as congestion. While the intruders are trapped within the inflamed area, phagocytes engulf the allergens, digesting them.

Image result for inflammatory response diagram

In more extreme cases, this harmless but annoying response can become deadly. Anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction where the immune system over reacts to the allergen and can have life threatening symptoms. Food allergies, for example, can cause inflammation in the tongue and throat making it impossible for air to enter the lungs. Other reactions can cause the muscles around the air ways to contract also preventing breathing. An anaphylactic shock can be remedied by an immediate injection of epinephrine or an epipen. epinephrine is another neurotransmitter that inhibits a lot of the symptoms that arise during an anaphylactic shock. The neurotransmitter increases blood pressure reducing swelling. It also increases heart activity temporarily preventing heart failure during a shock.

The number of allergy effected individuals is increasing. Allergies effect around 30% of adults and 40% of children. Americans spend over $17.5 Billion on health costs for allergies. There are no cure for allergies- and only 3 treatments: avoidance of the allergen(-_-), medication, and immunotherapy. None of these treatments are guaranteed. All still have risks. There are other ways to treat allergies. For example in my last post I talked about how helminthic therapy could possibly get rid of allergies, and a few others. My last visit to the SFSU health center about my allergies, the doctor suggested i try a 3 day long water fast where i consume nothing but water for a full 72 hours which is said to “restart” your immune system possibly getting rid of my allergies. Sounds like torture but maybe one day(but I think I’d rather have worms in my gut than not eat for 3 days).

I am considering changing my future plans from studying infection disease to studying allergies. Maybe be a part of some sort of cure and possibly get in on that action to get rid of my own allergies hehehe.



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