Allergy: a disease of the 21st century

What is allergy?

Allergy is a reaction of the immune system to certain factors. It can be triggered by substances in our immediate surroundings. The most common allergens are pollen, animal fur, dust and mould. The number of people suffering from various allergies is increasing with every year. The condition affects primarily populations in cities. We can classify allergies as inhalatory allergies (e.g. to plant or tree pollen), food allergies (e.g. to cow milk protein, gluten) and contact allergy (e.g. to artificial jewellery).

Inhalatory allergy and its characteristics

Allergens causing this type of allergy penetrate into the organism through the airways. This condition affects both children and adults. The most common inhalatory allergies include pet, dust and pollen allergies. Inhalatory allergies can be divided into seasonal, related to the period of increased pollen levels, and year-round allergies, caused by allergens found indoors, such as dust mites, mould spores and pets. It is worth remembering that in people allergic to pollen, allergic reactions may occur after eating fresh fruit and vegetables. For instance, people allergic to birch tree pollen should be particularly careful eating apples, hazel nuts, almonds, peaches, pears, carrots and tomatoes.

4 Types of inhalatory allergy

There are four types of inhalatory allergy: to pollen, dust, mould and animals. In Poland, pollen allergens occur already at the end of February, and they are present until September. Allergies are mostly triggered by grass, weed and tree pollen (usually birch tree, hazel, ash, willow and oak) The concentration of pollen in the air depends on the weather, and this type of allergy is most cumbersome on sunny and windy days. Dust mites, on the other hand, like humidity and high temperature. They are usually found in mattresses, pillows, carpets, curtains and blankets. Inhalatory allergies may also be triggered by pets. They are caused by the flaking epidermis and saliva of the animal. Animal allergens are present in the air, which means that the allergy symptoms may occur even if we did not touch the dog or the cat. It is also important that prolonged contact with any fur animal may result in allergy. Mould spores are found both outdoors (in the soil, fallen leaves or plants), and indoors (in bathrooms, on windowsills or in basements). Mould develops in moist and warm places, and its spores are present in the air, similarly to pollen.

The most frequent allergy symptoms

Inhalatory allergies do not cause anaphylactic shock. However, they induce a range of adverse reactions. The most characteristic ones include:

  • runny nose, sneezing,
  • dry, persistent cough,
  • eye tearing and itching,
  • headache, sinusitis,
  • sleep disorders, and
  • impaired concentration.

The inhalatory allergy symptoms may occur throughout the year. It is very important not to ignore the increasing signs of the disease.