What are allergies? Do you have allergies? How do you know?

Allergy symptoms range widely in their effects for an individual from simply irritating or bothersome to seriously debilitating or even life threatening. Some people get stuffy noses, watery eyes, sneeze attacks, etc. Others break out in hives, rashes or have gastrointestinal problems. The most dangerous symptom is when someone has an anaphylaxis response or a severe, whole-body allergic reaction. So, what are allergies?

The Mayo Clinic has a simple definition and explanation of what allergies are:

Allergies occur when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance such as pollen, bee venom or pet dander.

The immune system produces proteins known as IgE antibodies. These antibodies protect you from unwanted invaders that could make you sick or cause an infection. When you have allergies, your immune system makes antibodies that identify your particular allergen as something harmful, even though it isn’t. This triggers the release of histamines and other substances that cause allergy symptoms.”

Essentially, an allergy is your body being hypersensitive to something it thinks is harmful, even though it really isn’t. When your body is exposed to an allergen it is hypersensitive to, the allergic reaction occurs and the symptoms begin.

One of the confusing things about allergies is that many of the symptoms from allergies are similar to other illnesses or diseases. For example, if I wake up one morning with a stuffy nose & watery eyes, do I have a cold or could it be allergies? Or, if I have gas & bloating, did I eat something bad or could it be allergies? Severe anaphylaxis responses are easier to determine the cause since they are very rapid in onset. Although being exposed to an allergen that could cause an anaphylaxis response & waiting to see what happens is probably not the best way to see if you’re going to have a severe reaction. Other allergy symptoms are not nearly as easy to figure out. Sometimes it is really hard to determine, especially with food allergies, what exactly is the cause of your symptoms. This is where testing comes in.

Testing for allergies is so important and an essential first step in managing & living with allergies. Knowing if you have allergies and what you are allergic to allows for proper treatment & management of the allergy. Testing for allergies can be done by either a skin test or a blood test. Skin prick tests are done in a doctor’s office where the doctor pricks your skin with a bit of the allergen and watches to see if you develop a reaction or raised red bump where you were pricked with the allergen. Most blood tests are done at a laboratory where you go get your blood drawn and then it is processed. Another way to get a blood allergy test is with a home blood test kit. A home test kit provides a convenient way to go about getting a blood test done without having to visit a lab or your doctor’s office. ImmuneTech offers a home blood test kit for ten of the most common allergens. Their test is available without a doctor’s prescription and it is FDA cleared for over the counter use. For additional information on a home test kit or to order, visit Immunetech.com.

Regardless how you get tested for allergies, the key step is to get tested. From there, you can begin to manage & “live” with allergies rather than simply suffering through symptoms.

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This entry was posted in Allergy Overview and tagged , , , on by .

About Kari Larson

Hi, I'm Kari Larson, social media consultant & blogger for ImmuneTech. Personally, I have suffered with allergies & sensitivities for years. Professionally, my background is 15 years in heathcare management & life-style technology product development. I've also been a contributing author to a variety of dermatology trade journals. Now working in this capacity with ImmuneTech is exciting for me as it is combines my professional career with a topic of personal interest. My goal is to share news, tips, resources, & commentary on topics relating to managing & living with allergies.

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