Allergies Immune System

Do you sneeze near pollen or find your nose running around dust and mold? If this is the case, an overactive immune system may be causing you to have allergies.

More than 50 million people in the United States suffer from some sort of allergic reaction. The symptoms of allergies resemble those of a common cold, so allergies and a cold are often confused.

Allergy Symptoms

Chances are good you have an allergy if you suffer some of the following symptoms, especially at the same time and over an extended period:

  • congestion
  • coughing
  • fatigue
  • itchiness
  • runny nose
  • sneezing.

How Allergies Develop

If you suffer from allergies for the first time, you may be wondering how you developed allergies now since you have never in the past.

Allergens are equal opportunity invaders. They affect people of every age, race and medical background. More often than not, allergies are evident for the first time in children, but you can develop them at any age.

Allergies are often inherited, but factors such as hormones, stress, and smoking play a part. Your environment is also a big contributor to allergies. After a lifetime without allergies, you may move someplace where new irritants get your immune system in an uproar. Common triggers of environmental allergies include:

  • animal dander, usually from household pets
  • cold temperatures
  • dust mites
  • mold spores
  • pollen
  • smoke, from a wood fire or cigarettes
  • strong odors, such as perfumes or colognes.

Allergies and the Immune System

Allergies occur when your immune system recognizes one of the triggers as a foreign invader in the body, and reacts to expel that invader as if you were sick with a cold or virus. If you are allergic to dust, for example, your immune system will react to dust exposure as if you are sick, firing out antibodies to destroy a threat that does not exist, sneezing and coughing to expel the substance from your body.

The immune system exists to keep you safe. It works to keep viruses out of your body and to destroy any invaders it may have missed. It is made up of a network of cells and organs called lymphoid organs, which includes 10 or so different organs in your body.

Many allergic reactions fool the immune system through an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). IgE may react against certain pollens and allergens. When this happens, the immune system goes into overdrive, producing a large amount of IgE antibodies. The more allergic you are, the more you produce and the worse the reaction.

Strengthening the Immune System

How do you improve your immune system? Some ways to improve your immune system without resorting to medication include:

  • Eating well: Why is this in every health article? Because it’s really that important. Eat more greens, beans, fruit and less red meat. Most Americans eat more than two pounds of some sort red meat a day, even more sugary sweets and hardly any produce. Start a new trend.
  • Exercising: Just 30 minutes a day on the stair climber or treadmill leaves you feeling refreshed, energized and healthier.
  • Laughing out loud – LOL: No, don’t just type it to your friend, do it. Laugh out loud. It reduces stress and increases necessary cells in the immune system.
  • Sleeping: A sleep strike will kill you a lot faster than a hunger strike. Get enough sack time and everything always seems better. More sleeping equals less sneezing.
  • Taking a yoga class: Stretching is good for the muscles. Yoga is good for the mind.
  • Washing your hands: Use soap on both sides of your hands for at least 10 seconds – after coughing or using the restroom, and always before eating.

One of the biggest enemies of your immune system is a hard one to measure: Stress. Constant worry or pressure wears you down without you even knowing it. Reducing stress means staying healthier, and may even help you to reduce your allergy symptoms!

Resources

Insight Journal (2007). Reduce stress and strengthen your immune system: 10 natural ways to rejuvenate. Retrieved March 23, 2009, from the Insight Journal Web site: http://www.anxiety-and-depression-solutions.com/wellness_concerns/community_stress/stress_immunesystem.php.

MedicineNet.com (n.d.). Definition of immune system. Retrieved March 23, 2009, from the MedicineNet Web site: http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp? articlekey=3907.

University of Virginia Health System. (2004). Allergies and the immune system. Retrieved March 23, 2009, from the University of Virginia Health System Web site: http://www.healthsystem.virginia.edu/uvahealth/adult_allergy/system.cfm.