Allergy is widespread and affects approximately a quarter of the population in the UK at some time in their lives.
The term allergy is used to describe a condition in which the immune system overreacts to a substance which is not normally harmful in itself. The result can range from a collection of inconvenient symptoms to a disease or even a life-threatening reaction.
An allergic person’s immune system responds to normally unharmful substances, known as allergens, as though they are damaging, and produces a special type of antibody (IgE) to attack the invading material. This stimulates other fighting blood cells to release further chemicals such as histamine which together cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Some of the more common allergens are:
- Pollen from trees and grasses
- House dust mites
- Pets such as cats and dogs
- Insects like wasps and bees
- Industrial and household chemicals
- Foods such as eggs, milk, gluten and nuts