What are Allergies?

Asher introduces allergies and gives a brief overview of what they are, why they happen, and what can be done to mitigate them.


Asher Huner

12/17/20233 min read

man wiping mouse with tissue paper
man wiping mouse with tissue paper

What is an Allergy?

An allergy is a response by the immune system that is created by the body’s hypersensitivity to a normally harmless substance, referred to as an allergen. Once someone is exposed to an allergen, the body produces antibodies called immunoglobulins to fight against it. The next time that person is exposed to the allergen, it binds to the Immunoglobulin antibodies, and this causes the body to release histamine and other chemicals, triggering an allergic reaction.

Signs and Symptoms of Allergies

The symptoms of an allergic reaction can be mild or severe, and can appear in many areas of the body such as the skin, the gastrointestinal tract, the cardiovascular system, and the respiratory tract. Being aware of the signs that an allergic reaction is taking place can help mitigate that reaction in the future. There are a variety of ways in which allergies can manifest themselves including:

  • Sneezing and nasal congestion

  • Itchy, watery eyes

  • Coughing and wheezing

  • Shortness of breath

  • Skin rashes or hives

  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat

  • Stomach pain, nausea, or vomiting

  • Headache or fatigue

Allergies can range from being inconvenient to life-threatening. There are two main kinds of allergies.

Environmental Allergies

The environment plays a vital role in triggering fall allergies. In the fall, ragweed pollen and mold are the main culprits of the increase in allergies. Mold spores are released when the weather is dry and windy, when the humidity is high, or when the leaves have fallen. Unseasonably warm weather can also trigger allergy symptoms. These symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, and congestion. While many people think that spring and summer are the only time when allergies are present, fall and winter can cause just as many problems for people with allergies.

There are many ways to relieve symptoms resulting from seasonal allergies. Using over-the-counter medications to stay ahead of seasonal allergies can make them less potent. Many over-the-counter medications, such as nasal sprays, eye drops, and decongestants, can help. Pollen counts are higher in the morning, 4 am-8 am; therefore, avoiding early morning activities is also helpful, and showering and washing one’s hair will also minimize pollen effects.

Food Allergies

A food allergy is an abnormal immune system response to food it perceives to be dangerous, and these responses can differ greatly between people. Food allergies are becoming more severe and common for children and adults. Globally, there are about 250 million people who suffer from food allergies. There are approximately 170 foods that trigger food allergies, with egg, milk, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, soy, sesame, fruit, vegetables, seafood, and shellfish being the most common culprits. Additional reactions include allergy to medications, which may cause adverse reactions in some people but not others. There are several medications, including antibiotics, that may induce allergic reactions in certain individuals but not in others.

There is new research regarding some level of microbial exposure that may reduce developing allergies; however, this has been challenged. Some studies suggest that certain infections lessen the production of inflammatory antibodies to allergens. There has been discussion that certain infections may alter T cell behaviors involved in allergies and that good bacteria in the intestine will reduce inflammation. Researchers used both ‘dirty’ mice and ‘clean’ mice to see whether one would show a response to allergens. Researchers found no difference between these two groups of mice, that having a ‘dirty lifestyle’ will not prevent allergy response and that a ‘clean lifestyle’ will set them off. This shows that additional research is needed to determine triggers and ways to alleviate symptoms that arise from reactions to allergens.


Allergies are a common and often chronic condition that can significantly impact an individual's well-being. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and management options for allergies is essential in effectively managing this condition. By identifying and avoiding allergens, using appropriate medications, and considering immunotherapy when necessary, individuals can minimize the impact of allergies on their daily lives and improve their overall quality of life.