Also called: Chronic Allergies, Seasonal Allergies, Hay Fever, Food Allergies, Insect Allergies
An allergy is the immune system's overreaction to certain plants, animals, foods, insect bites, or other things. The immune system protects a person from diseases by fighting germs like bacteria and viruses.
But with allergies, the immune system overreacts and tries to "fight" allergens, which are ordinary things that cause an allergic reaction (like grass, pollen, or certain foods). The tendency to develop allergies runs in families.
When trying to protect the body, an allergic person's immune system makes antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies then cause allergy cells in the body (called mast cells and basophils) to release chemicals, including histamine, into the bloodstream. These chemicals help defend against the allergen "invader."
Releasing these chemicals causes allergic reactions as the body tries to get rid of the invading allergen. This causes the sneezing, itching, watery eyes, and other reactions that occur with allergies.
When the immune system reacts to an allergen and causes symptoms, the person is allergic to it. Being exposed to that same allergen will trigger an allergic response again. This means that every time the person eats that particular food or is exposed to that particular allergen, he or she will have an allergic reaction.
Doctor can determine the cause of an allergy with different tests. The most common allergy tests are skin tests and blood tests. These tests can be done in infants, but they're more reliable in kids over 2 years old.
An allergy is a chronic (long-lasting) condition. In treating allergies, doctors focus on relieving the symptoms. The ideal way to live with allergies is to reduce or avoid being around allergens.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
|National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) conducts and supports basic and applied research to better understand, treat, and ultimately prevent infectious, immunologic, and allergic diseases.|
|American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology offers up-to-date information and a find-an-allergist search tool.|
|American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology The ACAAI is an organization of allergists-immunologists and health professionals dedicated to quality patient care. Contact them at: American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology|
85 W. Algonquin Road
Suite 550 Arlington Heights, IL 60005
|Allergy and Asthma Network/Mothers of Asthmatics (AAN-MA) Through education, advocacy, community outreach, and research, AAN-MA hopes to eliminate suffering and fatalities due to asthma and allergies. AAN-MA offers news, drug recall information, tips, and more for treating allergies and asthma. Call: (800) 878-4403|
|Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) works on behalf of the 15 million Americans with food allergies, including all those at risk for life-threatening anaphylaxis.|
|Food Allergies and Travel Taking precautions and carrying meds are just part of normal life for someone who has a food allergy. Here are some tips on how to make travel also feel perfectly routine.|
|Food Allergies Doctors are diagnosing more and more people with food allergies. Knowing what to expect and how to deal with food allergies can make a big difference in preventing serious illness.|
|Food Allergies Struggling with strawberries? Petrified of peanuts? Sorry you ate shellfish? Maybe you have a food allergy. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|Food Allergies: How to Cope With food allergies, preventing a reaction means avoiding that food entirely. But sometimes allergens can be hidden in places you don't expect. Here are tips on living with a food allergy.|
|Allergies Your eyes itch, your nose is running, you're sneezing, and you're covered in hives. The enemy known as allergies has struck again.|
|Serious Allergic Reactions (Anaphylaxis) A person with severe allergies can be at risk for a sudden, serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This reaction can seem scary, but the good news is it can be treated.|
|Learning About Allergies During an allergic reaction, your body's immune system goes into overdrive. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|Shellfish Allergy Shellfish allergies can be serious - and shellfish can appear in some surprising foods and products. Read about shellfish allergy and what to do when a reaction is severe.|
|A Cold or Allergies: Which Is It? Is it a cold or allergies? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Nut and Peanut Allergy A growing number of kids are allergic to nuts and peanuts. Find out more about this problem and how allergic kids can stay healthy.|
|Nut and Peanut Allergy Peanuts are one of the most common allergy-causing foods, and they often find their way into things you wouldn't imagine. Learn the facts on living with a nut or peanut allergy.|
|What's the Difference Between a Food Allergy and a Food Intolerance? Food allergies and food intolerances, like lactose intolerance, are not the same. Find out more.|
|Food Allergies Food allergies can cause serious and even deadly reactions in kids, so it's important to know how to feed a child with food allergies and to prevent reactions.|
|Allergies Explore more than 20 articles in English and Spanish about all aspects of allergies in children.|
|All About Allergies Up to 50 million Americans, including millions of kids, have an allergy. Find out how allergies are diagnosed and how to keep them under control.|
|Allergy Shots Many kids battle allergies year-round, and some can't control their symptoms with medications. For them, allergy shots (or allergen immunotherapy) can be beneficial.|
|Five Ways to Prepare for an Allergy Emergency Being prepared for an allergy emergency will help you, your child, and other caregivers respond in the event of a serious reaction.|
|Serious Allergic Reactions (Anaphylaxis) Kids with severe allergies can be at risk for a sudden, serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. The good news is it can be prevented and treated.|
|Allergy Testing Doctors use several different types of allergy tests, depending on what a person may be allergic to. Find out what to expect from allergy tests.|
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