Allergies – Causes and Symptoms

Abstract:Every parent is aware that infants and children can be highly susceptible to allergies. Allergies, or hypersensitivity reactions, occur when the body's immune system overreacts to a normally harmless substance or allergen. Common allergens include pollen, dust mites, moulds, dander, latex, foods and insect venom. There are several different forms of allergic response, with research indicating that we can reduce our susceptibility to some, if not all of these reactions, through nutrition. This means that your child’s allergies may be improved through diet.

KEYWORDS:IQShield, allergies, allergy, immunity, immune system enhancing, nutrition


Every parent is aware that it is common for infants and children to experience allergies. Fortunately, the more common allergic reactions elicit mild symptoms, often resulting from eating a certain food, from touching plants or animals, or from exposure to another allergen. Some children however, can experience severe, life threatening symptoms, as seen with anaphylactic type reactions that can occur following exposure to an allergen.

What is an allergy and how does it occur?
An allergy, or hypersensitivity reaction, occurs when the body's immune system overreacts to a substance that is normally a harmless allergen. Common allergy triggers may include pollen, dust mites, mould, animal fur (dander), latex, food and insect venom [1]. During an allergic response, any number of symptoms may occur, including the following [2]:

  • Nose: a runny nose, itching, postnasal drip, impaired smell
  • Eyes: tearing, burning, itching, red or swollen
  • Mouth/Throat: coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, itching
  • Skin: hives, skin rash, itching
  • Gastrointestinal: stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhoea,
  • Head: headache

If the allergen is airborne, the allergic reaction will primarily affect the eyes, nose and lungs. If the allergen is ingested, the allergic reaction will primarily affect the mouth, stomach and intestines. If enough inflammatory factors are released, reactions such as hives or rashes could occur throughout the body. The most severe allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, can lead to extremely low blood pressure, breathing difficulties, shock, and loss of consciousness, all of which can be fatal [3].

Types of allergic reactions

Common to all forms of allergies is the release of the following inflammatory factors:

    • histamine (swelling, vasodilation, bronchoconstriction, discomfort and irritation)
    • serotonin (sensitises pain nerve endings)

proteases (breaks down proteins)

  • bradykinin generating factor (vasodilation, lowers blood pressure)
  • chemotactic factors (leukotrienes, prostaglandins and thromboxanes)

Table: Allergic reactions classified into four immunopathologic categories [4,5,6].

Allergy Onset following allergen exposure Characteristics
I < 30 min
  • Likely allergens: penicillin, latex, blood products, vaccine
  • Response is triggered by Immunoglobulin E (IgE) specific for a drug, antigen or other allergen
  • Immediate allergic response (most common)
II 5-12 hrs
  • Likely allergens: some medications including antibiotics
  • Antigen-specific antibody immunoglobulins (IgG and IgM) cause the destruction of host cells (cytolysis)
  • Involves red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets.
III 3-8 hrs
  • Likely allergens: several including some medications and antibiotics
  • Involves antigen-antibody immune complex formation, activating cell components called complements.
  • Possible serum sickness-like symptoms (fever, swelling, skin rash, enlarged lymph nodes)
IV 24-48 hrs
  • Likely allergens: latex, contact dermatitis, graft rejection, and tuberculin skin test
  • delayed cell-mediated response
  • Antigens on the allergen cause a release of inflammatory mediators

 

When experiencing an allergic response, many of us seek antihistamines and other over-the-counter medications to assist in alleviating the symptoms associated with an allergic response. But, there is a better way.

More evidence is coming to light that indicates a link between nutrition and the susceptibility to allergies. The type of foods your child eats and whether they are getting enough of the right nutrients has a bearing on your child’s susceptibility to allergies. Likewise, avoidance of some nutrients is also warranted, as these may also affect allergy susceptibility.

We will examine the relationship between nutrition and allergy susceptibility in a follow up article.
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1. Lack G: Epidemiologic risks for food allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2008, 121(6):1331-1336.
2. Montuschi P: Leukotrienes, antileukotrienes and asthma. Mini Rev Med Chem 2008, 8(7):647-656.
3. Hamelmann E, Beyer K, Gruber C, Lau S, Matricardi PM, Nickel R, Niggemann B, Wahn U: Primary prevention of allergy: avoiding risk or providing protection? Clin Exp Allergy 2008, 38(2):233-245.
4. Hoffman AG, Schram SE, Ercan-Fang NG, Warshaw EM: Type I allergy to insulin: case report and review of localized and systemic reactions to insulin. Dermatitis 2008, 19(1):52-58.
5. Merk HF: Diagnosis of drug hypersensitivity: lymphocyte transformation test and cytokines. Toxicology 2005, 209(2):217-220.
6. Ludwig RJ, Schindewolf M, Utikal J, Lindhoff-Last E, Boehncke WH: Management of cutaneous type IV hypersensitivity reactions induced by heparin. Thromb Haemost 2006, 96(5):611-617.

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