According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), allergies are relatively common. The American Academy of Otolaryngology (AAO) indicates millions of Americans suffer from nasal allergies. These can be the result of both genetics and environmental factors. While the immune system normally protects the body from harmful substances, it also reacts to foreign substances, called allergens. Unlike bacteria and viruses, allergens are generally harmless, and often do not cause problems. In people with allergies, however, the immune response is oversensitive.
Explaining Allergic Reactions and Allergens
The NCBI explains that with, allergies, the body recognizes an allergen and releases chemicals, such as histamines, to fight it off. This results in itching, swelling, mucus production, muscle spasms, hives, rashes, and other symptoms. Such symptoms are likely to vary from person to person, but this display is known as an allergic reaction. According to the Mayo Clinic, the immune system's reaction often inflames skin, sinuses, airways, or digestive systems. Allergies can range from minor irritations to anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening emergency. Common allergens include pollen, mold, pet dander, and dust.
Conditions Aggravated by Allergies
A specific allergy is usually not passed down through families. However, children are likely to develop allergies if both parents have them. In most people, allergies first appear during infancy or childhood. Allergic disorders commonly rank first among children's chronic diseases. Children with allergies often have allergic rhinitis, which is the most common cause of chronic nasal congestion. Sometimes a child's nose is congested to the point that he or she breathes through the mouth. In other cases, a skin rash is the only visible symptom of childhood allergies.
Allergies can exacerbate certain medical conditions, including sinus problems, eczema, and asthma. Mayo Clinic explains that asthma is an immune system reaction that affects the airways and breathing. In many cases, asthma is triggered by exposure to an allergen in the environment. Mold allergies may also lead to infections of the ears or lungs, as well as fungal complications of the sinuses and lungs.