A Primer on Allergies

A graduate of the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago, Dr. Angelo Consiglio presently resides in the Florida Keys. Since 2010, Dr. Consiglio has provided personalized care to patients at Allergy ENT, a private practice dedicated to treating diseases of the ear, nose, throat, head, and neck.

Although many individuals suffer from allergies, few have an in-depth understanding of why some individuals react negatively to substances such as mold, pollen, and animal dander. At its most basic level, an allergy may be defined as an abnormal response of the body’s immune system, thus, when an individual comes into contact with something to which they are allergic, the immune system responds with symptoms like a runny nose or watery eyes.

Internally, this reaction is caused by a naturally-produced antibody called IgE, which the body releases when exposed to allergens. This antibody then attaches itself to mast cells (a type of blood cell) found throughout the body. The IgE/mast cell combination attracts the allergens (which bind to the IgE), causing the mast cells to release histamine into the blood. Ultimately, this chemical is the primary substance that causes the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

The allergic reaction is designed to ‘wash out’ the irritant or allergy particle by causing sneezing, runny nose, or coughing. These symptoms are the body’s way of protecting itself. Unfortunately, the immune system is actually over reacting since these allergy particles are not so threatening to the body such as a virus or bacteria would be.