Be greater than your allergies
THE REASON BEHIND ALLERGIES
Provided by The Weather Channel
When spring arrives, most people get to enjoy the warmer weather and blossoming flowers without worrying about allergies. But while their immune systems see allergens like pollen as harmless substances, approximately 8 percent of adults aren’t so lucky.
For allergy sufferers, otherwise benign objects like pollen cause the immune system to “overreact when defending itself,” according to pollen.com. This is all thanks to your genetic code, which determines how the body reads allergens and figures out whether or not they are threatening. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, if they read an allergen like pollen and determine that it’s threatening, immunoglobulin (IgE) antibodies are produced and targeted
to the allergen.
“It [works] like a lock and key,” Dr. Arthur Lubitz, a board-certified allergist and immunologist in New York, said of the way allergens like pollen combine with IgEs. “If you’re not allergic, [the allergen] bounces off like an inert object.”
The first time this happens, your system is sensitizing itself so that it is prepared for the next time the same foreign particle enters your system. When your body reads an allergen as persona non grata, it sets off an intricately choreographed sequence of events, according to Immunobiology: The Immune System in Health and Disease: your T cells stimulate the B cells, which then develop plasma cells that produce the IgEs released to combat the allergen. As they make their way through your immune system, IgEs bind with mast cells and basophils causing a sensitizing exposure. The sensitization process isn’t necessarily a quick one.
“Generally, when you move to a new area, it would take about three seasons for you to really get sensitized to the pollen,” Dr. Lubitz said. “It can take three seasons for the symptoms to start.”
Once sensitized, your body is prepared to release histamines should you come into contact with the offending allergen again. The release of these histamines results in the frustrating symptoms allergy sufferers are familiar with.
According to the experts behind AMHQ’s “Brainstorm” segment on weather.com, histamines unleash “a localized immune system response kicking off a chain reaction that causes inflammation.” That inflammation manifests itself as the runny nose, sneezing and itching when “our body attempts to flush out the foreign particles.”
As histamines are released in the body, different allergens cause different reactions. “If the allergen is something you breathe in [like pollen], your reaction will most likely affect your eyes, nose and lungs,” the American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology explains.
Just like hair and eye color, allergies are predetermined by your genetic code. Dr. Lubitz said that allergies are a dominant gene.
“It’s estimated that if you have one parent with allergies, you’ve probably got a 40 percent chance that you’ll have children with allergies,” Dr. James Sublett, co-founder and managing partner of Family Allergy & Asthma in Louisville, Ky., said. “And if both parents have allergies, it may be up as high as 80 percent.”
When allergy season arrives, you can thank mom and dad for your sneezing and itchy, watery eyes. And as Dr. Clifford Bassett, founder and medical director of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York likes to remind his patients, get ahead of spring allergies by being prepared. Stock up on nasal sprays in the allergy section like FLONASE® Allergy Relief and follow these simple prevention techniques.