I was thinking about what I wanted my next Fact Friday post to be about and there has been SO much going on lately around “reactions” that I thought it would be good to do a post specifically around allergens.
What is an allergen? How do you react? Where are they found etc?
My daughter Samantha has an eczema, an egg allergy, and seasonal allergies. Her body reacts differently to all 3 (poor thing). My father had severe seasonal allergies, and my brother was so allergic to everything he got 6 shots a week for several years. My sister in law also has allergies and get shots for them… Needless to say, genetically, my daughter was screwed!
What is an allergy?
An allergy or allergic reaction, is what happens when your body responds to a normally harmless substance and thinks it is invading the body.
I LOVE learning with pictures, and I think this helps so much.
There are 2 steps to a reaction. This is SO important, and most people don’t know this is how the body works.
STEP 1. You are FIRST exposed to the allergen. At this time, you will not have any reaction. It is called “Sensitization.”
What happens, is the allergen (pollen, a food, a lotion ingredient, anything) comes in contact with you whether you inhale it, eat it, or touch it.
Cells release signals which stimulates the B cell (pictured above) to begin producing a LOT of IgE, a specific antibody. There is a lot of IgE so it starts looking for another cell that is its home (it’s receptor) The IgE looks for and attaches to Mast Cells. At this point, the mast cells with the attached IgE are considered sensitized. Basically they are ready and waiting for the next time you are exposed to the same allergen.
This is an important step because you can become sensitized at any time. Doctors know what “known” sensitizers are. There are specific ingredients that doctors know that if you keep exposing yourself to them A LOT, your body may develop an allergy to them. There are 26 known or top allergens or sensitizing ingredients in fragrances. Scientist in the cosmetic industry know what these ingredients are AND what LEVELS would pose a risk so they are avoided… smaller companies and private individuals who make their own skin care ususally don’t have this knowledge.
Step 2: This is the second, or third, fourth, (or 100th time) you are exposed to the allergen. Once you have been sensitized, when you come in contact with the allergen, it now has a place to go. It binds to the “ready” mast cell and the cell releases histamine into the body.
This release triggers your symptoms of hives, itching, swelling, watery eyes, anaphylactic shot etc.
There you have it, an allergic reaction.
It is important to note that IgE is specific to each allergen. That means that IgE to cat can only trigger an allergic reaction to cat. A blood test will help identify the amount of IgE in the body. Knowing your IgE levels for different substances will help identify the specific allergic triggers that may be contributing to your symptoms, i.e. if you are allergic and what you are allergic to.
Tune in next week when I elaborate on this allergy thing a bit more, specifically related to skincare.
Have a great weekend!