Immunology

How does diet during pregnancy impact allergies in offspring?

A small percentage of women said they consumed fewer allergens during pregnancy to stave off food allergies in their newborns, according to preliminary research Karen Robbins, M.D., presented during the American College of ...

Immunology

Why are so many people getting a tick-borne meat allergy?

It is early morning in early summer, and I am tracing my way through the woods of central North Carolina, steering cautiously around S-curves and braking hard when what looks like a small rise turns into a narrow bridge. ...

Immunology

The farm-milk effect on trial

Erika von Mutius studies the impact of environmental factors in early childhood on allergy and asthma risk. She is now planning a large-scale trial of the beneficial role of unprocessed milk, which will involve thousands ...

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Allergy

Allergy is a disorder of the immune system often also referred to as atopy. Allergic reactions occur to normally harmless environmental substances known as allergens; these reactions are acquired, predictable, and rapid. Strictly, allergy is one of four forms of hypersensitivity and is called type I (or immediate) hypersensitivity. It is characterized by excessive activation of certain white blood cells called mast cells and basophils by a type of antibody known as IgE, resulting in an extreme inflammatory response. Common allergic reactions include eczema, hives, hay fever, asthma, food allergies, and reactions to the venom of stinging insects such as wasps and bees.

Mild allergies like hay fever are highly prevalent in the human population and cause symptoms such as allergic conjunctivitis, itchiness, and runny nose. Allergies can play a major role in conditions such as asthma. In some people, severe allergies to environmental or dietary allergens or to medication may result in life-threatening anaphylactic reactions and potentially death.

A variety of tests now exist to diagnose allergic conditions; these include testing the skin for responses to known allergens or analyzing the blood for the presence and levels of allergen-specific IgE. Treatments for allergies include allergen avoidance, use of anti-histamines, steroids or other oral medications, immunotherapy to desensitize the response to allergen, and targeted therapy.

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