All About Allergies
An allergy is an adverse reaction that the body has to a
particular food or substance in the environment.
Most substances that cause allergies are not harmful and have no
effect on people who are not allergic.
The allergic response
Any substance that triggers an allergic reaction is called an
allergen. Some of the most common allergens include pollen, house
dust mites, mould and pets. Less common allergens include nuts,
fruit and latex.
An allergy develops when the body's immune system reacts to an
allergen as though it is a threat, like an infection. It produces
antibodies to fight off the allergen, in a reaction called the
The next time a person comes into contact with the allergen, the
body "remembers" the previous exposure and produces more of the
antibodies. This causes the release of chemicals in the body that
lead to an allergic reaction.
Common allergic disorders include asthma,
hay fever. Symptoms
of an allergy can include sneezing, wheezing, coughing and skin
The nature of the symptoms depend on how you came into
contact with the allergen. For example, you may experience problems
with your airways if you breathe in pollen.
Seeing your GP
If you think you have an allergy, tell your GP about the
symptoms you are having, when they happen, how often they occur and
if anything seems to trigger them.
You may be offered a skin prick test to identify the allergen
that is causing your symptoms.
Read more about the diagnosis
How common are allergies?
Allergies are very common. According to Allergy UK, one-in-four
people in the UK suffers from an allergy at some time in their
lives. The numbers are increasing every year and as many as half of
those affected are children.
The reason for the rise is unclear. Some experts believe it is
associated with pollution. Another theory is that allergies
are caused by living in a cleaner, germ-free environment,
which reduces the number of germs our immune system has to deal
with. This causes it to overreact when it comes into contact
with harmless substances (read more about the common
causes of allergies).
Managing an allergy
The most effective way of managing an allergy is to avoid all
contact with the allergen causing the reaction. Taking medication
can't cure your allergy, but it can treat the common symptoms.
Read more about treating
an allergy and
preventing an allergic reaction.
Read all about Indoor Allergies here.