One of the most frustrating things about allergies is how little sense they seem to make. It’s fairly obvious why hazardous materials or infections cause your skin to react, but why should common foods and environmental triggers do the same? If you want to find out, follow along with us as we check out what goes on inside the body of an allergy sufferer. The process behind their symptoms might surprise you!
What Allergens Do to the Body
Allergy and illness symptoms have a lot in common because they’re both caused by the immune system. Take hives, for example: simply put, hives are typically caused by a reaction in the skin that causes it to inflame or swell. This reaction occurs when the immune system is fighting off an invader. When you get hives from an infection, it’s a sign that your immune system is working to get you healthy again.
An allergen is a normally harmless substance – such as peanuts or pollen – that causes certain people’s immune systems to go haywire. When someone with a peanut allergy comes in contact with peanuts, their immune system thinks the peanut proteins are threats and launches a counterattack. Depending on the allergy, this counterattack can range from a mild skin rash to a life-threatening reaction.
How Allergens Work Together
It’s a common mistake to think that you’re only allergic to one thing. In reality, most people are allergic to several different allergens. If you are allergic to multiple allergens, you may notice symptoms only when you’re exposed to several of your allergens in a short period of time.
As an example, let’s imagine a person who’s allergic dust mites, latex and pollen. In a single morning, that person could encounter dust mites in bed, eat some latex-related fruits for breakfast, and get some pollen on the skin as they leave the house. In their immune system, these allergens add up and eventually cause symptoms. In this story, the person might assume they’re allergic to the most obvious thing – pollen. In reality, though, the dust mites and fruits are playing an equally important part.
For a more detailed explanation of how different allergens work together, take a look at the video below – and remember to have any unexpected rashes or breakouts of hives examined by a doctor!
Specialist doctor from the University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden. I moved to the Bay Area in January 2013 and I attended the School of Public Health, UC Berkeley from 2013 to 2014 as a visiting PhD candidate. My PhD thesis is on Digital Health and so far I have published 4 peer review scientific papers. I founded First Derm in 2014.