What is allergic disease?

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Find out what allergy is and what causes allergies to develop.

What is allergy?
Allergies happen when the body’s immune system reacts to irritants such as pollen and house dust mites that are otherwise harmless. For most people these tiny particles are insignificant, but for people with allergy, they can trigger an allergic reaction such as shortness of breath, itchy and watery eyes, blocked and runny nose, sneezing and asthma.

Any substance that causes the body’s immune system to react in this way is called an allergen. Common allergens are:

• House dust mites
• Pollens
• Animal dander (hair, skin)
• Fungal or mould spores
• Food (particularly milk, eggs, wheat, soya, seafood, fruit and nuts)
• Wasp and bee venom
• Some medicines
• Latex
• Household chemicals (irritants such as detergents and fragrances)

Types of allergy
There are several types of allergies:

• Respiratory allergy: Respiratory allergies are the most common allergies. Respiratory allergies are caused by allergens in the air and general environment, including pollens, animal dander, moulds and house dust mite. The most common forms of respiratory allergies are allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma.

Allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, is inflammation and irritation of the upper airways and the membranes of the nose and eyes. Conjunctivitis often accompanies this condition. Symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis are red, watery and itchy eyes. The most common cause is an allergy to grass and tree pollen.

Allergic asthma is when the airways are hypersensitive to the allergens causing an allergic reaction in your body. Since the upper and lower airways are connected, inflammation can spread from the nose into the lungs and worsen asthma control or lay the foundation for later asthma development.

• Skin-related allergy: Eczema, also called contact allergy or contact dermatitis, is an overreaction in the skin caused by direct contact with nickel, cosmetics and chemicals, among others.
• Other allergies: Other allergies include food allergies, most often caused by milk, eggs, soy, peanuts and fish, and allergy to insect venom. Symptoms typically show shortly after coming in contact with the food or being stung by an insect. Common symptoms include rashes, wheezing, itching, an upset stomach, nausea and vomiting. In rare cases, a food or insect venom allergy can lead to anaphylactic shock, which is a severe, sometimes fatal, whole-body allergic reaction.

Who is at risk?
It’s currently estimated that approximately 10-30% of the world’s adult population and up to 40% of children are affected by some form of allergy. Allergic rhinitis (with or without conjunctivitis) affects 5-50% of the population worldwide, and 15-20% of these suffer from a severe form of allergy.

Important facts

  • Allergies are the most frequent chronic diseases in children and young adults
  • Allergies run in families, but most new cases appear in people without a previous family history of allergy

Allergies can develop at any age, but they usually start in childhood and persist for many years, often for life. Some people are more likely to develop allergy because it runs in their family. The genetic tendency to develop allergies is known as atopy.

Though the exact role is unknown, smoking may represent a risk in the development of allergy. Other environmental factors like high exposure to pets, dust mites and outdoor air pollutants may also play a part.

 

How do i live with allergy?

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