What is an allergy?
An allergy is generally understood as an overwhelming defense response of the immune system to certain, normally harmless, environmental substances (allergens). There are 4 forms of allergic reactions. The antibody crucial for a type I reaction is immunoglobulin E (sIgE). The symptoms of an allergy can be mild to severe and in some cases even acute life-threatening. Reddening and itchy skin, runny nose and watery eyes, cough and shortage of breath – as different as the individual forms of allergy are, the cause is presumably often the same: a mostly inherited and from environmental factor influenced over-sensitivity – an “atopy”. Various organs can be affected. Depending on the present allergy, the symptoms occur either seasonally, approximately at the time of the corresponding pollen flight, or all-year, e.g. with allergy to house dust mites.
For people suffering from allergy, it is important to know which of the 4 possible allergic reaction forms is based and which health consequences can result from it. The correct early diagnosis by an expert will allow an appropriate therapy. Therapy is not only about controlling the symptoms themselves but also about preventing a moderate to long-term deterioration of the symptoms. Among other things, due to the close relationship between the individual allergy forms, it is very important to treat allergic reactions as early and consistently as possible. In the case of allergic rhinitis, for example, it may be possible to reduce the risk of developing asthma later. In addition, a treatment can sometimes prevent subsequent diseases of a non-allergic nature: for example, the scratched, inflamed skin of an untreated neurodermitis offers an especially good attack surface for bacteria, skin fungi or viruses, which can cause skin infections.
Allergies should not be treated single-handedly but on the instructions of an allergologist. He has the expertise necessary for a reliable diagnosis and the selection of adequate therapy.
Allergies are caused by allergens (antigens) against which the deficient immune response is directed. The allergens causing type I hypersensitivity reactions are mostly proteins derived from the natural environment e.g. plant pollen, animal hair, food, mites and insect venoms. It is known that allergens consist of carbohydrates and proteins. All allergens are in a certain size range. On the one hand, they are complex enough to cause violent reactions, but on the other hand are also small enough to penetrate into the organism through the skin, mucous membranes, airways or intestines.