Sneezing, itching, dry cough… Spring is in full swing and, with it, allergies and their annoying symptoms have arrived.
“Allergy is a type of immune response or defense against substances that normally do not produce reactions in other individuals,” says Dr. Jonathan Kilimajer, specialist in Allergology and Clinical Immunology at the Subiza Clinic.
“This concept goes hand in hand with hypersensitivity, thus referring to the mechanism of response to a foreign agent (allergens such as pollens, mites, animal epithelium, food, preservatives, medicines, etc.) that leads to an allergic reaction.
Hypersensitivity to certain allergens does not occur only by pollen, mites or dust, i.e. there are several types of allergy. But how exactly do they occur? What types are there? What is anaphylactic shock?
Why do allergies happen?
An allergy occurs because of a hypersensitivity reaction due to the antibodies that are generated. These antibodies are called immunoglobulin E.
“First of all there is a sensitization or contact in which there is a response to several exposures to an allergen that becomes a harmless external agent that our body recognizes as dangerous generating these antibodies,” illustrates Dr. Kilimajer. In a second phase or in the following contact with the allergen “a series of mechanisms are produced that trigger the release of inflammatory mediators that produce the allergic reaction“.
What types of allergies are there?
Spring allergies are very annoying, but they are not the only ones. The causes for allergy can be multiple: “Environmental allergens such as pollens, mites, molds and animal-related agents such as epithelium, feathers and detritus,” says the allergist. “There are also allergies to food, oral or topical medicines, preservatives, materials in our workplace, hygiene products, detergents, cosmetics, metals, among others,” he adds.
“There are allergic reactions that are produced by antibodies we produce such as rhinitis, conjunctivitis, asthma, urticaria/angioedema and anaphylaxis or others that are generated by other mechanisms such as allergic or contact dermatitis and late allergies,” explains the doctor.
When does the allergy start?
Although it is more common for them to begin in childhood, it is not always so. They can even disappear over the years: “If a person is exposed to an allergen for a long time, it could become desensitized and the allergy disappear (creating an immune memory that makes the allergy disappear, something you look for with vaccines for example) while others by exposing themselves to foreign agents to which they were not exposed or by intermittent contact with other agents could generate allergy at any age,” explains the doctor.
Are there more and more allergy sufferers?
“Between 20 and 25% of the population has some more or less serious allergic disease today,” explains Joaquín Sastre, president of the Spanish Allergy Society.
Hygiene theory seems to explain why more and more people have allergies, among other diseases: “The more we urbanize and move away from a natural environment, the more allergic populations become,” explains Dr. Kilimajer. But it’s not the only one that explains the increase: “In terms of spring allergies we can also talk about the changing allergenic power of pollens due to environmental pollution, storms, climate change and the exaggerated planting of certain trees on the urban road,” she says.
In the case of food allergies, these are increasing “by the same concept but apparently also influences our diet, food processes, the same environmental allergies and genetics among other factors,” says the allergist.
What exactly is anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis, according to Dr. Kilimajer, is the most severe reaction in allergy, “being a very rapid reaction of release of inflammation mediators that appears within a few minutes and puts at risk the life of the patient involving not only the skin and tissues but also the respiratory or cardiovascular system. Hives, swelling, loss of consciousness and even difficulty swallowing or breathing are some of the symptoms of anaphylactic shock.
But what should be done in case of anaphylaxis? “The main thing is the stability of the person through the use of adrenaline both in the emergency room and with auto-injectable syringes that patients should have or be distributed in public centers,” illustrates the allergist.
“After the use of corticoids, antihistamines, among other medicines and supports, and a later control in ambulatory or hospital emergencies”. In addition, it must then “go to an allergist to carry out the relevant studies,” concludes the specialist consulted.