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What Are Allergies, and How Do They Work?

Millions of Americans suffer from allergies of one sort or another, but those whose allergies aren’t yet life-threatening usually don’t take the time and energy to learn about the reaction happening inside their bodies. While that may work for some who have exceptionally mild allergies, it really is important that you take the time to familiarize yourself with the process of the allergic response.

Allergies are what happens when your body encounters a safe substance, but thinks that it’s harmful. Your immune system engages, and throws histamine at the problem, which is an inflammatory agent. The reason it does this is because when things swell up, they get more blood flow, which means more antibodies, platelets, white blood cells, and all of the good things that you have floating around in your blood. Whatever you need, the histamine makes sure that affected areas get more of it.

However, when you are exposed to an otherwise safe substance and your body has an allergic reaction to it, it uses too much histamine, causing swelling all over, along with the other things we associate with allergies, such as tears, runny nose, sneezing, etc. Your immune system is doing everything it can to expel foreign substances from your body, but since it usually can’t do that with allergies (because either you’ve eaten something, or touched something), the reaction just keeps getting worse and worse, until the solution becomes worse than the problem.

So allergies, at their root, are an immune disease. This means that every time you have an allergic response to something, it’s like you’ve gotten sick, and your body is fighting off an infection. That’s fine, except that when your body spends its resources fighting off otherwise safe substances, it can run out of resources when you need them most: real infections and sicknesses!

That’s why it’s very important to see an Atlanta ENT specialist to control your allergies, even if you consider them to be mild or “just an annoyance”. To stay safe and healthy, everyone needs their immune system functioning at peak performance!

Ramie Tritt, MD, President, Atlanta ENT

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