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Allergy Causes

Learn about some common allergy causes.

Springtime allergies are often caused by grass allergens and pollen. [©Shutterstock 2009]
©Shutterstock 2009
Springtime allergies are often caused by grass allergens and pollen.

Allergy Causes

The large variety of allergy causes has led to over 50 million Americans suffering from allergies. An allergy occurs when the immune system creates an exaggerated response to something that normally would not cause any kind of reaction. When an allergic patient's body detects a substance that is seen as a threat, it overreacts by trying to fend off the allergen. Almost anything could be an allergen, although there are some allergy causes that are more prevalent than others.

Environmental Factors

Indoor allergies are some of the most common types of allergies. Allergens such as pet dander, mold, cockroaches and dust mites all have the potential to produce a reaction in patients with allergies.

Outdoor allergies are often caused by pollen, grass and mold. Seasonal allergies usually occur in the springtime and are frequently in response to the start of the growing season. When it gets warm enough, grass starts to grow faster and flowers start blooming. The majority of springtime allergies are due to the wind dispersing pollen from trees as well as grass allergens.

Other common environmental allergy causes include perfume, cigarette smoke and fire ants, which can be found both indoors and outdoors.

Food Allergies

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology points out that most food allergies are caused by sensitivities to proteins in certain foods. This is evidenced by the following list of common food allergies created by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA); every item on the list is in fact a source of protein. Ninety percent of all reactions in the United States are attributed to these eight foods:

• Milk
• Eggs
• Fish
• Crustacean shellfish, such as crab, lobster and shrimp
• Tree nuts, such as almonds, walnuts and pecans
• Peanuts
• Wheat
• Soybeans

It is possible for an individual patient to develop an extreme reaction to any type of food or additive. Exposure could cause patients to have an anaphylactic reaction and go into shock. This is a life-threatening situation and emergency treatment is necessary. It is important to distinguish an allergy from an intolerance. This is especially common with milk; lactose intolerance is not a true food allergy. Allergists and immunologists can work with patients to determine the causes of reactions. The only way to treat food allergies is to avoid the triggering foods and their by-products.

Insect Stings

One of the most extreme allergy causes is insect venom. While getting stung by a bee, wasp, hornet or yellow jacket is relatively improbable, patients who have this type of allergy can suffer potentially deadly consequences. This is especially true if they are stung by a whole swarm of insects as opposed to just one. The biggest problem with this type of allergy is that unless an insect has previously stung a patient, chances are, he or she has no knowledge of the allergy because no reaction has ever taken place. Patients with a family history of allergies may want to consider skin or blood testing to determine if he or she is allergic to insect venom. If so, patients may consider undergoing immunotherapy (allergy shots) to guard against a potentially life-threatening reaction.

Medical Allergies

The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology states that allergies to certain drugs can be due to a reaction to the drugs themselves or the by-products the drugs produce in the body. Penicillin is one of the most common medical allergies in America. Other medical allergy causes include morphine and aspirin. Allergic symptoms vary from patient to patient but are usually more severe when the patient is very sensitive to the drug.

According to the Mayo Clinic, patients who are extremely allergic to a drug can go into anaphylactic shock when exposed to it while others are less sensitive and will only itch when exposed. Many patients with a penicillin allergy cannot have a penicillin injection, nor can they take amoxicillin (Amoxil) or any other penicillin-derived antibiotics. Patients who are allergic to these drugs must use alternative forms of medication to avoid having reactions.

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