Understanding the Basics of Allergies by Nick Gonzalez

Nick (425x640)Many people experience symptoms that are often associated with the common cold, such as runny nose, coughing, or sinus congestion, but such symptoms may actually be a result of allergies.  An allergic reaction is a response to a hypersensitive disorder in the immune system which reacts to pathogens that have either entered the body or have come in contact with the body.  Although some allergies can be fatal, the immune system will sometimes mistakenly attack harmless everyday substances, such as dust, pollen, pet dander, or food, thus causing minor allergic reactions.

When the body is first exposed to an allergen, a reaction may not occur instantly, because the immune system needs time to recognize the substance before it can begin the process of eliminating it.  Buildup before a reaction may take anywhere from a few days to several years; this process is called sensitization.  As the body becomes sensitive to the allergens, it will begin to recognize the unwanted matter and catalyze the development of immunoglobulin, an antibody produced to attack allergens.

The production of immunoglobulin causes chemicals in the body to develop, as well.  These chemicals, called histamines, are what cause an allergic reaction.  Histamine is a chemical the body naturally produces to fight off germs, but the effects may also cause swelling in the nasal passage, a runny nose, coughing, and sneezing – similar to the common cold.

Once an allergic reaction has occurred, common symptoms will include inflammation and irritation, however, depending on the type of allergens, signs and symptoms will vary.  Some reactions occur in the digestive system, on the skin, within the sinuses, through airways, in the eyes, or through the nasal passages.

Skin symptoms:

  • Red skin, rashes
  • Itchy skin
  • Hives

Digestive symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea

Respiratory symptoms:

  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Swollen throat
  • Tongue swelling
  • Cough

Facial Symptoms:

  • Swelling of the lips
  • Swelling of the face
  • Swollen eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Itchy nose
  • Watery eyes

The next time you are in the doctor’s office and are curious to see if you are allergic to any substances, request to have an allergy test performed.  In doing so, you will find out more information on what you may be allergic to and what you can do to prevent reactions from occurring.



The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.



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