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augustlan's avatar

Can someone fill me in on allergies and allergy shots?

Asked by augustlan (47641points) June 1st, 2011

About allergies themselves: How does one develop a new allergy? How does one develop more severe allergies to things they were already allergic to? I’ve heard some theories about incremental exposures over time triggering new or worsening allergies. Is that the case?

About allergy shots: It’s my understanding that the allergy serum used in the shots contains small amounts of the allergen(s), increasing the amount over time, in the hopes of developing an ‘immunity’ to the allergen(s) or at least mitigating the severity of the allergic response.

These two ideas seem incompatible to me. What am I missing?

Side question: How does one’s body decide what it will be allergic to?

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8 Answers

marinelife's avatar

You are right about allergy shots.

You are sort of right about allergies, but mostly exposure to allergens decreases the chances of allergy. For example, children who live in households with pets are less likely to develop asthma.

Children who live in households with normal amounts of dust and dirt are less likely to develop allergies to dust.

What can happen is that once having been exposed to an allergen, the allergic reaction can get worse over time. For example, I am allergic to bee stings. I was not allergic to them as a child. The allergy developed when I was in my 20s. The last time I was stung by a bee on the back of my hand, my arm got red and swelled up to my elbow. I have been told I should get an epi pen.

creative1's avatar

Allergies can develop as early as 6mths old and they can change every 7 years, they can worsen, get better, you can become allergic to more or different things when they change. What the allergy shots do is give you small amounts of what you are allergic to and make your body become immune to it. Each time they give you a shot the may increase the amount of what you are allergic to, to build your immunity to the allergen.

I feel that allergies are something that are genetically pedispositioned for them personally. But some feel that its enviromental caused. Who knows maybe its a combination of the two.

jlm11f's avatar

A few things off the top of my head…obviously for accurate information ask a physician.

Allergies 101 – For whatever reason your body finds the allergen (example: pollen, peanuts etc) to be a pathogen and thus attacks it by developing antibodies to it. Part of this immune reaction is releasing a mediator known as histamine which then goes and produces the reactions that make allergies so dangerous. Histamine is a bronchoconstrictor (constricts bronchioles of lungs making it harder to get oxygen) which is why you can get anaphylaxis as a reaction. Anti-histamines such as Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can be taken to prevent histamine from doing it’s thing.

How does one develop more severe allergies to things they were already allergic to? The more reactions you have to the allergen, the better your immune system gets at responding to it, worse the reactions (possibly leading up to anaphylaxis). To the body, that substance is essentially a pathogen that needs to be killed.

Exposure – The concept is that just because you were exposed to and used something doesn’t mean you cannot develop an allergy to it later on. For example, a person might not be allergic to peanuts but after a while they may develop an allergy to it.

Desensitization – For certain allergies, you can try to densensitize the patient by giving them incredibly minute portions of the allergen until the body immune system slowly diminishes the response to it. This ONLY works for certain limited allergies. We still don’t know the exact mechanism. This article might help.

_zen_'s avatar

This was an interesting new article.

augustlan's avatar

@PnL Psst: broken link.

funkdaddy's avatar

I believe this is PnL’s intended link

jlm11f's avatar

Yep it was. Thanks @funkdaddy

augustlan's avatar

Thanks, everyone. We’re considering getting allergy shots for my oldest, who just tested positive for every possible allergy except dogs. (No food allergies, thank goodness.)

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