THE BASIC ALLERGY VOCABULARY

People tend to be super confused about this…

1)     ATOPIC –  me!  “Atopic” is the term used to define people which carry a strong hereditary load –  i.e.  people with severe sensitivity or “very allergic.” We tend to have many simultaneous manifestations of allergy such as asthma, rhinitis, dermatitis or atopic eczema. It’s the allergy jackpot!

2)   ALLERGY: An immune reaction to a substance to which the individual is sensitive and can cause various severe reactions. It’s important to understand that all allergies behave differently. For instance, I am super allergic to cats: it will make my eyes water and swollen and it will quickly become an asthma crisis. Wool will make me itch.  I love this guide from WebMD which explains the process in detail:

When a person is exposed to an allergen, a series of events takes place:

·       The body starts to produce a specific type of antibody, called IgE, to bind the allergen.

·       The antibodies attach to a form of blood cell called a mast cell. Mast cells are found in the airways, in the gastrointestinal tract, and elsewhere. The presence of mast cells in the airways and gastrointestinal tract makes these areas more susceptible to allergen exposure.

·       The allergens bind to the IgE, which is attached to the mast cell. This triggers a reaction that allows the mast cells to release a variety of chemicals including histamine, which causes most of the symptoms of an allergy, including itchiness or runny nose.

If the allergen is in the air, the allergic reaction will most likely occur in the eyes, nose, and lungs. If the allergen is swallowed, the allergic reaction often occurs in the mouthstomach, and intestines. Sometimes enough chemicals are released from the mast cells to cause a reaction throughout the body, such as urticaria – itchy red welts (hives), decreased blood pressure, shock, or loss of consciousness.

3)     FOOD ALLERGIES: reactions of the defence or immune system against proteins present in a food, recognized as “enemy” of the body. The allergic reaction may be triggered in minutes, hours or days after ingesting the food. One is not allergic to lactose but to the  milk protein. The majority of food allergies are due to milk, egg, soy, wheat, peanuts, nuts and shellfish and fish.

Symptoms vary depending on the immune mechanism responsible for the allergy

If mediated by immunoglobulin E (IgE) they cause immediate reactions or until 2 hours after ingestion. These allergies may affect the skin (hives, red patches etc), respiratory system (nasal symptoms,  bronchospasm), gastrointestinal  system (diarrhoea,  vomiting) or systemic (anaphylaxis). They are usually more severe reactions and might be life-threatening.

The not IgE mediated allergies usually affect the gastrointestinal tract (i.e. vomiting, mucus and / or blood in the faeces).  The reactions can be days or weeks after dietary introduction.

 

allergy_diagram-2

SOURCE: adrescuewear.com

4)     HOW LONG DO ALLERGIES LAST? The characteristics of each allergen (food protein responsible for reactions) are distinct. Thus, the duration of allergies varies according to each allergen. Some people naturally overcome their childhood allergies but usually foods, such as peanuts, nuts, fish and seafood present a more enduring case.

5)     INTOLERANCE: not to be confused with ALLERGY. intolerance is the difficulty of the body to assimilate certain food or medicine. Being intolerant to milk means the body is not capable of digesting lactose. In the milk allergy there is an immunological process against milk proteins. While the intolerant can consume dairy products in small quantities without reactions, allergic to milk should have a diet free of any protein food.

Symptoms of intolerance are restricted to the digestive tract (diarrhoea, constipation, pain, etc.), while in allergy symptoms can affect various organs and systems, such as skin, digestive tract, respiratory, etc.

6)     DIAGNOSIS:  If you notice consistent  symptoms whenever there is intake of that food  consult a doctor,  because the spectrum of symptoms is broad and common in other diseases (intolerances, reactions to spoiled food). If you are not sure of your diagnosis you might not get an effective treatment.

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