Even the definition of the above can be contentious. An allergic reaction is simply our body's way of telling us that something in us is out of balance and some change is needed, whether in our diet, environment, or emotions. However, the common view of an allergy is what needs challenged first.
An ALLERGY is is a reaction produced by the body’s immune system when it encounters a normally harmless substance.
A SENSITIVITY, on the other hand, is the exaggeration of a normal side effect produced by contact with a substance. For example, the caffeine in a cup of coffee may cause extreme symptoms, such as palpitations and trembling, when it would usually only have this effect when taken in much larger doses.
Finally, an INTOLERANCE is where a substance (such as lactose) causes unpleasant symptoms (such as diarrhoea) for a variety of reasons, but does not involve the immune system. People with an intolerance to certain foods can typically eat a small amount without having any problems. In contrast, people with a food allergy will have a bad reaction even if they come into contact with a tiny amount of the food to which they are allergic.
Having cleared that up … all of these are treatable, naturally.
Any substance that triggers an allergic reaction is called an allergen. Some of the most common allergens include:
An allergy develops when the body’s immune system reacts to an allergen as though it is a threat, like an infection. It produces antibodies to fight off the allergen, in a reaction called the "immune response".
The next time a person comes into contact with the allergen, the body "remembers" the previous exposure and produces more of the antibodies. This causes the release of chemicals in the body that lead to an allergic reaction.
Symptoms of an allergy can include sneezing, wheezing, itchy eyes, skin rashes and swelling.
The nature of the symptoms depend on the allergen. For example, you may experience problems with your airways if you breathe in pollen.
The symptoms of an allergic reaction can vary, depending on which substance (allergen) you are allergic to.
If you are allergic to substances in the air – such as pollen, animal dander and dust mites – the symptoms usually include:
If you are allergic to a certain food or medication, symptoms can include:
You can also be allergic to substances coming into direct contact with the skin, such as perfumes, soaps, hair dyes and metal jewellery. This causes a type of eczema known as contact dermatitis.
It is important to remember that these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, so see your GP for advice if you're not sure what's causing your symptoms. It may even (likely) be the prescription cream that he recently gave you!!!
The symptoms of an allergic reaction do not happen the first time you come into contact with an allergen, but at a later point of contact.
This is because the body’s immune system has to develop sensitivity to the allergen before you can become allergic to it. In other words, your immune system needs to recognise and memorise the allergen (for example, pet hair or pollen) and then make antibodies against it. This process is known as sensitisation.
The time taken to become sensitised to an allergen varies from days to years. Some people stop in the sensitisation phase, as they experience symptoms, but never fully develop an allergy.
In very rare cases, an allergy can lead to a severe allergic reaction, called anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal.
Most allergic reactions occur locally in a particular part of the body, such as the nose, eyes or skin. In anaphylaxis, the allergic reaction involves the whole body and usually happens within minutes of coming into contact with a particular allergen.
The symptoms of anaphylactic shock can include any or all of the following:
This is the $65 million question! The answer could be ANYTHING … literally! We live in a wholly polluted world, where even in the depths of nature we are being attacked by airborne particles of humanity’s fall from it’s previous symbiotic relationship with nature:
The above represent just SOME of the potential causes of your allergic reaction … and that’s BEFORE we even come to foodstuffs, the ‘manufactured’ materials that form our clothing, and the plastics that we drink out of.
There are THOUSANDS of potential allergens for us to deal with each day. Most of the time, we will absorb them and allow them to pass (if our system functions properly) with merely a sniffle. Sometimes, and notably when our system is weakened somehow, we will allow a build-
HOWEVER … just as there are thousands of potential allergens, so too can I test against these. Using a collection of samples built up over the years, I have the ability to test against most, if not all, of the commonly known allergens, and some that are, frankly, incredibly rare. Clients are advised to bring samples of those items to which they feel as though they may be reacting, since we can then test directly against the suspected item.
Please note that any advice offered either on this site or in my practice is not meant to substitute medical advice. For medical advice, please consult a relevant medical professional.