What Is An Allergy



Allergy is a condition of hypersensitivity or altered tissue reactivity. Antigens (sensitizing agents) are found in various foods, bacteria, drugs, medications, pollens (inhalants). These sensitizing agents produce antibodies in the blood of allergic people. As a consequence of antigenantibody reaction, certain symptoms occur. These can resemble common colds with running nose, sneezing, watering of the eyes; colic with abdominal pains, distention, gas; croup with wheezing, cough, rashes, bronchitis, stomach aches, vomiting, itchy sensations, etc..

More than half of all allergic symptoms are found in the first few years of childhood. They can appear in any organ of the body, but are most common in those systems where there is exposure to foreign substances, such as the respiratory tract, the skin, and the gastrointestinal tract. With young infants who are on a limited diet, it may be relatively easy to determine what foods cause allergy in the first few months of life. If an infant breaks out with a skin rash soon after being introduced to orange juice, egg, or a cereal, it is possible to assume that one of them is the allergic substance. One may then withdraw the food from the diet, use ointments to clear the rash, and observe the patient. If the rash does not recur after the offending food has been eliminated, it is good evidence that the food was causing the allergic response.

In some children there is a history of “keeping a cold all winter long,” of wheezing the minute they get outside into the cold air, and inability to take a bath without catching cold the following morning (presumably due to exposure with a change in temperature). These children are sometimes also unable to go swimming in the summer because the chilling water and change of temperature predisposes them to catching cold.

These may he signs of upper-respiratory infection allergy and may he associated with wheezing and a clinical picture resembling asthma. While this may not be true asthma, it is considered asthmatic bronchitis because it occurs whenever the child has some slight chilling or upper-respiratory infection. These children are frequently allergic to bacteria. The onset of a cold triggers a wheezing episode. They can usually be treated and desensitized with a respiratory vaccine. This causes a reduction in the frequency, severity, and duration of these symptoms.