The Science Behind Allergies and How They Impact Your Health

Silver Spring Immunology

If you suffer from allergies, you are not alone. According to The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), allergies affect more than 50 million people in the United States. Allergies occur when your immune system overreacts to substances that are normally harmless, such as pollen, pet dander, or certain foods. In this article, we will explore the science behind allergies and how they impact your health.

What Happens During an Allergic Reaction?

When you come into contact with an allergen, your immune system produces antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies attach to immune cells called mast cells and basophils, which release histamine and other chemicals into your bloodstream. Histamine causes the symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as itching, sneezing, and swelling.

Types of Allergies

There are several types of allergies, including:

  • Seasonal allergies: also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, these allergies occur during specific times of the year and are usually triggered by pollen from trees, grasses, or weeds.
  • Food allergies: these allergies occur when your immune system reacts to certain proteins in food, such as peanuts, shellfish, or milk.
  • Insect allergies: these allergies occur when you are stung or bitten by an insect, such as a bee or a mosquito.
  • Skin allergies: also known as contact dermatitis, these allergies occur when your skin comes into contact with an allergen, such as poison ivy or latex.
  • Allergic asthma: this type of allergy can cause asthma symptoms, such as wheezing and shortness of breath.

Impact on Your Health

Allergies can have a significant impact on your health and quality of life. Allergic rhinitis, for example, can cause symptoms such as congestion, runny nose, and sneezing, which can interfere with daily activities and sleep. Food allergies can cause severe reactions, such as anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening. Insect allergies can also cause anaphylaxis, which requires immediate medical attention.

Additionally, allergies can increase your risk of developing other health conditions, such as asthma. According to the AAFA, up to 80% of people with asthma also have allergies. Allergies can also make asthma symptoms worse and increase the frequency of asthma attacks.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you suspect that you have allergies, it is important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis. Your doctor may recommend allergy testing, which can help identify the specific allergens that trigger your symptoms. Allergy testing can be done through a skin test or a blood test.

Treatment for allergies may include medications, such as antihistamines, decongestants, or nasal corticosteroids. Immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, can also be an effective treatment for allergies. Immunotherapy involves receiving regular injections of the allergen in gradually increasing doses over time. This can help your immune system become less sensitive to the allergen and reduce your symptoms.


While there is no cure for allergies, there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure to allergens and prevent symptoms. These may include:

  • Keeping your home clean and free of dust and pet dander
  • Washing your hands frequently
  • Avoiding outdoor activities during high pollen count days
  • Wearing a mask when doing yard work or other activities that may expose you to allergens
  • Reading food labels carefully and avoiding foods that contain your allergen

Overall, allergies can have a significant impact on your health and quality of life. By understanding the science behind allergies and taking steps to prevent and treat them, you can reduce your symptoms and improve your overall well-being.