The immune system defends people against germs and microorganisms every day. However, allergies are abnormal reactions in the immune system when things that are typically harmless to most people, become a problem. The immune system believes the substance is a harm to the body. The foods, dust, medicines, plant pollen, and other substances causing allergic reactions are called allergens.

The immune system overreacts to an allergen and treats it as an invader of the body and then begins to fight it off. The symptoms can range from annoying to life-threatening. During the false invasion, the immune system makes antibodies called immunoglobulin. The antibodies cause certain cells to release chemicals into the bloodstream to defend against the substance it believes is an invader.

The chemicals that are released causes the allergic reactions which can affect the eyes, nose, throat, skin, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract. When the same allergen is exposed to the body in the future, the same reaction will occur.

There are some allergies that are seasonal and happen only during certain times of the year. For example, pollen counts may be high during the summer or fall months, but then there are other allergens can happen anytime someone encounters it. For example, if a person eats a food that is an allergen, they will have an allergic reaction.

Anyone can have allergies, but they are often hereditary, meaning they can be passed down through genes from parents to children. People usually do not inherit particular allergies; however, will inherit the tendency or likelihood of having allergies.

Some of the common airborne allergens include dust mites, pollen, molds, pets, and cockroaches. Dust mites are microscopic insects that feed on the dead skins cells that fall off bodies every day and are present year-round in people's homes. Pollen is a seasonal allergen and is a major cause of allergies as trees, weeds, and grasses release tiny particles into the air to fertilize other plants.

Molds are fungi that can thrive indoors or outdoors and can be found in poor drainage areas, such as piles of rotting leaves, poorly ventilated places like bathrooms, damp basements, laundry warms, and other places where water is present.

Pet allergens are caused by the tiny flakes of shed skin called dander and animal saliva. Cockroaches are a major allergen especially in inner cities. There may be exposure to cockroach-infested buildings which is also a cause of high rates of asthma in inner-city kids.

Common food allergens include cow's milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts and other tree nuts, soy, wheat, and other foods. In addition to food and airborne allergens, allergens may also include insect stings, medicines, and a variety of chemicals.

The symptoms of airborne allergies can include sneezing, itchy nose and/or throat, stuffy nose, and coughing. The symptoms for food, medicine, or insect allergies are numerous and may include wheezing, breathing problems, coughing, hoarseness, throat tightness, vomiting, diarrhea, swollen or water eyes, hives, swelling, or even a loss of consciousness, dizziness, or drop in blood pressure.

There is no cure for allergies, but the symptoms can be monitored and managed, and the best way to avoid allergies is to avoid the allergens. In some cases, there are allergy shots to help desensitize a person to an allergen.

A: Immune system
B: Allergy shots
C: Allergens
D: Allergies

A: Dust mites
B: Pollen
C: Molds
D: Dander

A: Dust mites
B: Pollen
C: Molds
D: Dander

A: Sneezing
B: Itchy nose
C: Vomiting
D: Coughing

A: Pollen
B: Mold
C: Dander
D: Dust mites

A: Cock roaches
B: Mold
C: Dust mites
D: Pollen

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