Allergies: A highly sensitive topic.

Short-profile: Allergies

What is an allergy?

If the body absorbs an airborne substance through the nose, the skin, or the gastrointestinal tract, the immune system checks whether it is a pathogenic agent or not. If this is the case, it is combated by a complex defence reaction. Occasionally, the immune system does not distinguish between harmful and unproblematic substances and suddenly defends itself against harmless substances – so-called allergens – for example cat hair, grass pollen or dust mites. Allergic symptoms do not usually occur on first contact with the allergen, but after repeated encounter. When typical symptoms are apparent, the reaction is called an allergy.

Who is typically affected?
Whether severe or only mildly, many people suffer from allergies. Over the past 50 years, the number of allergy sufferers has risen rapidly. It is estimated that every second European will be allergic by 2025. Although anyone can develop an allergy in the course of his or her life, there is a genetically predisposed susceptibility for an allergy. People with this predisposition are more likely than others to suffer from hay fever, allergic bronchial asthma, and food allergies.

What can be done to detect an allergen?

A simple self-test can help to identify if somebody shows an allergic reaction against typical allergens like cat hair, pollen and dust mites. Knowing what someone is allergic against can help to avoid the triggering allergen.
What are the typical symptoms?
An allergic reaction may be noticeable in different ways, for example, in the form of tearful and itching eyes, nasal
irritation like a stuffed nose or sneezing, feeling weak and
tired, shortness of breath due to swollen mucous membranes
or gastrointestinal complaints. Skin rashes like itching and
eczema can also indicate an allergy.
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