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Allergy Causes

There are both genetic and environmental contributions to developing an allergy. As such, it is often observed that allergies tend to run in families, highlighting a genetic component. The genetic susceptibility to allergy is known as 'atopy'. Whether an atopic individual goes on to develop an allergy depends upon whether they actually become sensitised to an allergen.

FAQ about Allergy Causes:

How do you become sensitised to an allergen?
How do I know my symptoms are caused by allergy?
Which allergies are the most common?
What allergens may trigger allergy?
What is the allergic march?
What are allergies influenced by?
How can I stop my allergies from getting worse?

How do you become sensitised to an allergen?

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Sensitisation can happen at any stage of life. For instance, one person may become sensitised in the womb or in the first year of life to allergens like house dust mite and go on to develop asthma. Another person may develop occupational asthma well into adult life when they go to work in a bakery and become sensitised to allergens in flour dust. Many genes that are involved, or potentially involved, in atopy have been identified. Working out how these genes interact with environmental allergens is challenging, but is the way forward to a true scientific understanding of allergy.

How do I know my symptoms are caused by an allergy?

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Allergy may play a role in the following conditions:


However, the allergy may not be the cause and the only way to be sure is to perform an allergy test, to identify culprit allergens or to conduct blood tests to check for the presence of antibodies. Contact your GP to have these tests carried out.

Which allergies are the most common?

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In the UK, hay fever is the most common allergy with around 30 per cent of the population stating that they suffer from this type of allergic rhinitis. Asthma, which can be much more serious, affects 1 in 10 children and 1 in 20 adults in the UK.

What allergens may trigger an allergy?

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In the UK, the most common allergens that could trigger allergy are:


Other allergens include:

  • Animal dander (dog, cat, horse, rodents, etc)
  • Cockroaches
  • Weed pollen
  • Fungal spores/Mould
  • Latex
  • Insect venoms (wasp, bee stings)
  • Drugs
  • Enzymes in biological washing powder

What is the allergic march?

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Some children have a clinical history marked by sensitising to an allergen as a baby, then eczema in early childhood, followed by allergic asthma or rhinitis as they get older. We know these conditions are related and the concept of the allergic march is that one condition actually leads to the other. This, however, may be prevented because there seems to be some evidence that suggests dealing with early hay fever, by using the right allergy relief products, may prevent asthma later on. To find out more about the allergic march visit our blog post, The Allergic March.

What are allergies influenced by?

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Only you will know if lifestyle factors like diet and stress levels affect your allergy symptoms. The main factor influencing allergies is exposure to your specific allergens, which should be kept to a minimum by practising allergen avoidance/environmental allergen control.

How can I stop my allergies from getting worse?

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As mentioned above, allergen avoidance is the key to managing an allergic condition. Allergy specialists should be giving advice on avoidance as part of a treatment plan.

  • Dust mite: Get rid of dust mite reservoirs such as carpet, soft furnishings, clutter. Damp dust and vacuum using a vacuum with a High-Efficiency Particulate Air filter regularly and wash bedding and soft toys at a high temperature using allergy specific washing detergent.
  • Pet dander: Keep your pet outdoors if possible, or at least confined to one room. Try not to let pets into bedrooms. Clean furniture, carpets, bedding and pets regularly using the Pet Lover Package.
  • Mould spores: Deal with damp patches. Open windows regularly to improve ventilation, especially after cooking or showering/bathing.
  • For reducing levels of a wide range of indoor allergens, you may find investing in an air purifier fitted with a HEPA filter a sensible move.
  • Outdoor pollution is harder to avoid. The best approach is to keep an eye on pollution and pollen count forecasts.

Allergy Causes - Information and FAQs | Allergy Cosmos Articles

The impact of traffic-related and Particulate Matter (PM) pollution on childhood allergy and asthma are in the medical literature this month, along with a report on a new way of reducing airborne allergens.

  • Does exposure to air pollution from heavy traffic actually cause allergic sensitisation in children? The answer has never been clear, but we are one step closer to understanding this key issue, thanks to a new report from researchers in Stockholm (http://www.aaaai.org/global/latest-research-summaries/Current-JACI-Research/air-pollution-allergic-sensitization-child.aspx). They tracked more than 2,500 Stockholm-based children from birth to the age of eight, taking blood samples and asking about wheezing and other allergy symptoms. Levels of nitrogen oxide and PM10 pollution were also estimated for the children’s home and school addresses to see how far they had been exposed. Air pollution exposure during the first year of life was found to be linked to increased risk of pollen sensitisation at the age of four. However, traffic-related air pollution exposure did not, overall, increase the risk of sensitisation to other common inhaled allergens. The study, which is part of the BAMSE (Children, Allergy, Milieu, Stockholm, Epidemiological Survey) suggests that infancy is the time to protect your child from later development of pollen allergy.
  • When it comes to exposure to PM pollution, the general rule is that the smaller the particle, the bigger the health risk. Ultrafine particles (UFPs), with a diameter of 0.1 microns, or less, can penetrate deep into the lungs and may even make it into the bloodstream. In a new study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22156960), a team in Copenhagen checked hospital admissions for childhood asthma against levels of nitrogen oxides, PM10, PM2.5 and UFPs. They found that all these forms of pollution except UFPs were linked to an increased risk of asthma attacks warranting hospital admissions in children aged 0-18 years. This is intriguing – because research in adults has clearly shown that respiratory effects are more strongly associated with UFPs rather than larger particles. That is why the paper’s authors say ‘the evidence regarding the effects of UFPs on asthma is limited and conflicting, warranting more research.’
  • And, finally, have you heard of Temperature Controlled Laminar Airflow treatment (TLA)? It’s a system that delivers a constant, slightly cooled flow of air into your breathing zone and displaces warmer air that contains irritants and allergens. In research published in the journal Thorax (http://thorax.bmj.com/site/misc/thoraxjnl-2011-200665.pdf), John Warner, Professor of Paediatrics, Imperial College, London and co-workers elsewhere tested nocturnal TLA against placebo in patients with hard-to-control atopic asthma. The 281 participants were aged seven to 70 and from six European countries. Of these, 189 slept with the TLA device just above their bed for a year while the rest had a placebo device. Those using TLA had a difference of around 15% in quality of life scores and a more pronounced decrease in exhaled nitric oxide levels, compared to those using the placebo. Nitric oxide is a marker of inflammation in asthma. They also had less immunoglobulin E – another marker – in their blood. The improvements were most marked among those with the most poorly controlled asthma. The researchers believe the positive findings are down to the TLA system being able to produce very marked reductions in inhalable allergens. They also believe that the study underlines the importance of nocturnal exposure to allergens in asthma so, even if you don’t invest in a TLA system, it’d be worthwhile checking that your bedroom is an allergen-free zone as much as possible.

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climate change makes allergies worse Rising carbon dioxide levels are encouraging the growth of ragweed and poison ivy and boosting the proliferation of fungal spores. As a result, climate change makes allergies worse, as there is more ragweed pollen in the air, according to Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist with the United States Department of Agriculture. 'Climate change is affecting plants and human health, especially that of allergy sufferers,' he said at a recent meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
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