Causes of Allergies


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Who can be affected?

Allergies can affect anyone. Some people are affected from childhood and some do not experience symptoms until later on in life. Some allergies are inherited genetically but many people develop them independently. In the case of the former, it is known as having atopy or being atopic. The likelihood of a child becoming atopic is increased if they have prolonged or intensive exposure to dust mites or pets, they are living in a house with smokers or they use antibiotics.

How do they affect you?

Put simply, allergies are caused by the immune system’s reaction to unfamiliar substances or proteins, known collectively as allergens. Typically your immune system is designed to fight off anything in your body that it believes could be harmful. The development of an allergy is the physical manifestation of your body overreacting, as it were, to often even an everyday substance, such as pollen or dust mites.

What are the main causes?

The main groups of allergens that tend to cause people to develop allergies are insect stings, pollens, dust mites, medication, fungal spores, pet dander, foods and skin contact allergens. The medications that people most frequently have a reaction to are penicillin and anaesthetics. Foods that provoke the majority of food-related allergies are dairy, nuts, seafood, fruit, soya and wheat. Skin contact allergens commonly include hair dye, cosmetics, washing powders, nickel, latex and preservatives.

What if I am unsure as to what is causing my allergic reactions?

However this list is not exhaustive by any means. You can be allergic or develop an allergy to pretty much any substance. It is therefore a good idea to write down any symptoms that you notice and their frequency. If you are still unsure of the cause of your allergic reactions then continue with this diary, making a note of anything you do differently or out of the ordinary, perhaps changing the brand of washing powder that you use for example. It would also be useful to keep a food diary to see if any correlation emerges between the foods or drinks you consume and the occurrence of the symptoms of your allergy. If you are still unsure as to what is causing your allergy you should make an appointment with your doctor or allergist and take your symptom diary to help them make a diagnosis.


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