More than 67 million Americans suffer from allergy symptoms. But, what are allergies? And how do they affect your body?
What are Allergies?
An allergy is an exaggerated immune response to foreign substances (that are generally not harmful to non-allergy sufferers) like pollen, bee venom, mold or pet dander. In a person with allergies, the immune system response to these foreign substances is oversensitive. This exaggerated response is what causes allergy symptoms like nasal congestion, coughing, sneezing and itchy eyes.
At this point, you’re probably wondering “why is my body doing this to me?!” Your body is extremely complex. The immune system of the allergic person mistakenly considers allergens to be an invading agent, and in response to the invasion tries to mobilize and attack.
This attack comes in the form of antibodies like histamines which can inflame your skin, sinuses, airways or digestive system. Anti-histamines stop the release of histamine and soothe previously irritated organs.
Seasonal Allergy Symptoms
Allergy symptoms depend on your particular allergy, and can involve the airways, sinuses, nasal passages, skin, and digestive system. For our purposes here, we’ll deal primarily with symptoms associated with “seasonal allergies” or “Hay Fever.” Hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis, may cause:
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy, runny nose
- Sore throat
- Itchy throat/Coughing
- Itchy, watery or swollen eyes
- Itchy skin
- Fatigue and irritability
How do allergies affect the body?
As a general rule, the part of the body the allergen touches directly correlates to the symptoms you’ll develop. For example: Allergens that you breathe in (like pollen, mold, dust mites, and pet dander) often cause a stuffy nose, itchy nose and throat, mucus production, cough, or wheezing; while allergens that touch the eyes may cause itchy, watery, red, swollen eyes.
The severity of allergies varies from person to person and can range from minor irritation to a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis. While allergies can’t be cured, a number of allergy treatments are available to help relieve your allergy symptoms.