By: Yang Lu
Allergy season is fast approaching, and I’m already stockpiling tissues and Claritin in anticipation. And I’m not alone; up to 10% of all Canadians also deal with allergic reactions every year. But what causes our body to have such a strong reaction? And what can be done about it?
Why the Reaction?
When the body encounters a substance that it deems as harmful, it starts an allergic reaction in self-defence. Though symptoms start at the eyes or nose, the root of the reaction begins at the body’s immune system. When the immune system senses an unwanted substance, it creates antibodies, shortly after histamine, which causes blood vessels to expand and the itching to occur. Common allergies include food, pollen, and pets. However, people also suffer from drug, insect, latex, and mould allergies.
What are some Solutions?
Currently, there are two methods to reduce the severity of an allergic reaction: taking antihistamines and allergy immunotherapy. Histamines cause allergic reactions to occur; antihistamines reduce the amount of histamine produced by the body. Medicines sold online and in pharmacies, like Claritin or Zyrtec, are a type of antihistamine. These medicines are taken as a pill, nasal spray, or eye drop to get the medication closer to the source.
Another solution to allergies is allergy immunotherapy. This is a process of introducing larger and larger amounts of the allergen to the body over time. This decreases the immune system’s sensitivity to the allergen, causing it to produce fewer antibodies. This is done with allergy shots and tablets and has been done on both children and adults.
Recently, scientists are also experimenting with gene therapy to try and turn off the allergic response of cells. This has been successful with mice, but not yet on humans.
Yet, a fast fix to the spring sniffles is to simply keep the house clean to prevent a build-up of pollen, cat hair, and other allergens. Next time you scrunch up your face to hold in a sneeze, just remember that you have your immune system to blame. And that Claritin is probably your best, and safest, bet.
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