What Is an Allergic Reaction?

Allergic Reaction Symptoms

The term allergy comes from allos (other) and ergon (action) which is implying there is some type of mobilization against foreign chemicals. The “allergen” is the harmless chemical toward which the allergic reaction is directed.

There are many things that can possibly be an allergen such as:

  • Pollen
  • Plants such as poison ivy
  • Latex rubber such as gloves or condoms
  • Detergents
  • Hair dyes
  • Tattoo ink
  • Dust
  • Mold
  • Foods such as shrimp, shellfish, dairy, wheat, strawberries, peanuts, etc
  • Insect bites such as fire ants, bees or mosquitos
  • Animal dander
  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Medications such as ibuprofen, penicillin, aspirin or iodine
  • Sulfa drugs such as timethoprim, sulfamethoxazole, amoxicillin or codeine
  • Stress
  • Emotions
  • Exercise
  • Cold or hot temperatures

After an organism is exposed to an allergen, antibodies which are also known as immunoglobulin E or lgE,  can be produced by the body as a reaction towards the invading allergen. This process is also known as “sensitization”.  When both the added allergen and the antibody unite, what happens is a breakout of something like a biological hell. Different types of cells are summoned immediately to the battle field. Potent chemicals are then generated and released near to the site of the initial skirmish.

The end result is basically an inflammatory response with the attendant swelling, heat production, increased blood flow and pain. If this allergic reaction happens in the nasal membranes (rhinitis), there may be an increase in the production of secretions (runny nose), sneezing, and various degrees of narrowing of the nasal passages. If this happens in the airways (asthma), it will give rise to the typical wheezing of the asthmatic and some degree of the air passages becoming narrower can occur. In some cases, this can become fatal.

Take note that allergens do not necessarily have to be foreign substances but can also be part of your body for example, some ailments can cause the body to begin forming antibodies to its own tissues such as lupus, certain types of arthritis and possibly even diabetes.