allergy

Variation in the normal immune reaction. Immune reactions normally occur when harmful substances enter the body: antibodies are formed in the blood which render the foreign substances harmless and clear them away. Some people develop the same reaction against harmless substances, against which antibodies are formed on the first contact, without perceptible reaction, but on further contact reaction sets in, usually becoming more violent on each renewed contact. Examples of harmless substances that can cause an allergic reaction are: household dust, grass pollen, fur and feathers, food (strawberries, shellfish), medicines (penicillin) or insect bites. The cause of allergies is generally not known; it is possible that heredity is involved, because allergies often occur more frequently within a family. The complaint is frequent: roughly 1 person in 10 is allergic to something. Hay fever is an example of an allergy. It causes a blocked nose, sneezing fits, itchy, weeping eyes on inhaling pollen from grass or certain flowers and trees which triggers the immune reaction in the nasal mucous membrane and upper air passages, giving rise to these symptoms. Allergic reactions are often the partial cause of an asthma attack. Asthma sufferers can be allergic to house dust, smoke, cat or guinea-pig hairs etc., and when they come into contact with them, antibodies are formed, causing narrowing of the air passages and thus the attack. (Allergic reactions are, however, not the only factors which can cause asthma attacks.) If it can be established to which substances the patient is allergic then his environment can be kept as free of them as possible. It is only sensible to part with a pet if it can be shown that the sufferer is allergic to the hair or flakes of skin of that animal. Allergic reaction to foods, medicines or insect bites is a more general one affecting the whole body and causing red itchy skin eruptions or hives, and can be so serious that it can lead to anaphylaxis and possible death. The first treatment of allergy is by avoiding as much as possible substances to which one is allergic, but if a reaction

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