Discounted by many as simply a part of life, allergies are in fact a significant health concern, and a common cause of illness in the United States. Allergies affect nearly 50 million Americans in some capacity, and that number grows every year. Allergies take their toll on children as well, and it is estimated that allergies account for more than two million missed school days each year.
An allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to some foreign substance (or allergen) that most peoples’ bodies find harmless. When the body detects the presence of the allergen – anything from dust and pet dander to a particular kind of food – the body’s immune system treats the allergen like a hostile, harmful substance, resulting in the symptoms that most people associate with allergies: symptoms like runny noses, coughs, throat tightening, hives and rashes, among many others. These symptoms are caused because the body has released a chemical into the bloodstream known as Immunoglobin E (IgE) in an attempt to “fight off” the allergen it thinks is harmful.
Allergies have a strong genetic component, but it usually does not involve inheriting an allergy to a particular substance – rather, parents with allergies will more likely have children with allergies, even if it’s an allergy to entirely different substances. Some children even contract allergies when there is no family history of allergies, so all parents should keep a watchful eye on their children and be on the lookout for any allergy-like symptoms, as some kinds of severe allergy attack – particularly in children – can be dangerous and even fatal.