Allergies Causes & Risk Factors

Allergies Causes & Risk Factors

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    A , Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease), answered
    It's not just mold and mildew (both allergens in their own right) that thrive in moist, warm environments. Dust mites are big fans, too. Buy a hygrometer to measure the moisture in your home, and if necessary, purchase dehumidifiers to tackle moisture trouble spots.
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    While some foods may help ease allergy symptoms, others may aggravate them. Research suggests that alcohol, refined grains, red and cured meats and foods high in saturated fat and sugar can worsen allergy symptoms by worsening inflammation.

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    There's more to developing allergies than just heredity. The things that you become allergic to are also based on when you're exposed to a substance and how much of it you're exposed to.

    Let's say, for example, that you have a tendency to be allergic to mold spores. You may have no allergy symptoms when you are living all alone in your spic 'n' span apartment complex. Then a new roommate moves in, bringing along a veritable jungle of houseplants, an smelly old mattress, and a humidifier (to keep her skin moist). Soon after her arrival, you become a symphony of snorts and sneezes. What happened? You'd endured a certain small amount of exposure to mold spores with no problem, but once the scales were tipped by the hefty onslaught of your roommate's mold-bearing possessions, your immune system kicked itself into high gear.
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    Most skin allergies are not contagious. This is because allergic reactions are caused by the unique response of each individual's immune system. Substances that cause a reaction in one person may not cause a reaction in someone else, even if both people have the same skin condition. Most of the time, hives and rashes caused by skin allergies won't even spread to other parts of the same person's body, let alone parts of someone else's body.

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    Some people may develop skin reactions as a result of photosensitivity, or sun allergies. These people usually develop red, itchy patches of bumps or hives on their skin after being exposed to sunlight. Depending on the severity of the allergy, hives can develop after a few hours or only a few minutes of sun exposure. Usually, this kind of allergic reaction is caused by certain diseases or skin conditions, or develops only if a person is taking certain medications that increase sensitivity to sunlight. The best treatment for a skin allergy caused by sunlight is to avoid sunlight as much as possible, and to wear protective clothing and sunscreen when exposed to the sun.

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    Allergies to drugs and foods occur when your body recognizes these as "foreign." When you have an allergic reaction, your immune system is fighting against that drug or food in a way very similar to how it reacts to a bacteria or virus, trying to protect you from this potential hazard. Allergies can be passed down from parents to children, although this is less common than spontaneously developing an allergy. No one really knows why a certain person will develop an allergy to something like peanuts when someone else could eat peanut butter all day.
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    Antigens that cause an allergic reaction are called allergens. Some common allergens include bee or insect venom, certain antibiotics, pollen, animal dander, and sulfa drugs.
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    The Food and Drug Administration estimates that there are approximately 36 million people in the United States who suffer from seasonal allergies. This condition is also called by its common name of hay fever, or, by its technical name, allergic rhinitis.

    While it may provide little comfort, the pollen that you are reacting to is actually harmless. The runny noses, scratchy eyes and headaches you endure actually result from a case of mistaken identity.

    Your body believes that the pollen in the air is actually dust mites or fungal spores. In response, it releases histamine - a natural chemical that is part of the body's immune system response. The histamine causes irritation and inflammation of the soft tissue, which results in your sniffling and other symptoms.

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    There is some evidence that allergies are hereditary, so if one or both of someone's parents have any type of allergy, there's an increased chance that that person will have some type of allergy. Also, the type of allergy doesn't necessarily depend on genetics, so even if someone's parents have seasonal allergies, that person still is at a higher risk for developing skin allergies. People who have an increased exposure to common allergens are also at a higher risk. This may include people who work with certain cosmetic chemicals (hair stylists); people who must wear latex gloves at work (doctors, nurses, dentists); people who work with formaldehyde and similar chemicals (tanners, textile workers, foundry workers, embalmers); and people who may work outside around weeds like poison ivy and poison oak.
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    How old you are when you're exposed is critical, and viruses may also play a role. Recent studies show that heavy exposure early in life - before age 2 - may be protective against animal allergies and asthma.