An allergy occurs when a person's immune system (specifically mast cells in the lining of the airways) becomes sensitised to a harmless substance, most commonly pollen (hayfever), dust mite faeces (some forms of asthma), or nuts. After becoming sensitized, when the substance next enters the person's body, the immune system responds as though it were a pathogen, releasing histamines, which causes the affected area to become inflamed. The intensity of this reaction can vary from a mild rash, up to inflammation so bad it can cut off your breathing and choke you to death

It is thought that the original function of the part of the immune system (antibodies called immunoglobin E) was to combat parasitic worms such as tapeworms, in the developed world, as that doesn't happen very often, the cells become sensitised to harmless substances.

A hypersensitivity to a specific substance (such as food, pollen, dust, etc.) or condition (as heat or cold) which in similar amounts or degrees is harmless to most people. It is manifested in a physiological disorder.

Allergies seem to have styles, that is, over the years allergens that weren't so popular in the past, have become the allergins of choice.

When I was tested--I won't say how many years ago--the specialist was an Englishman who had come over to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

Among the things he said I was allergic to include: dogs, cats, horses--or any animals with shedding hair or fur--birds, dust and mites, wool, rayon, ragweed--Toronto is known as a world center of ragweed--pollen.

I have hay fever. I was told I would be very unhappy on a farm.

I grew up in a hypoallergenic room; that is, other than a chair and bed, blind, no curtains, there was nothing! My mother vacuumed it many times a week.

There were family stories of me being given fine woolen pants by my grandfather, only when I took them off--after complaining to high heaven--my thighs and legs were red.

I was never given penicillin. I was told there is so much of it floating around in the environment, that someone with as much sensitivity as I have, would be allergic to it already. And there is no need to risk it--there are so many other antibiotics on the market--for a while at least.

In grade 7, I took sulfamide of some sort for months for something. I reacted to that! It was far worse than whatever I was sick with. And it is an allergy I am left with.

My brother was allergic to eggs. I have had friends who were allergic to milk, salt, chocolate. For years I thought myself lucky not to have such. Growing up, my parents were of the philosophy that they wouldn't force me to eat foods I really did not want; they believed I might be aware of a sensitivity.

So, it was with great surprise that I discovered, as an adult, an allergy to shellfish. Digestive reactions are always an unpleasant surprise.

I am happy to have grown up when there were far fewer synthetic chemicals in the environment. I had so much less opportunity to develop allergies than today's children. And I grew out of most of mine, with the help of regular desensitization shots.

I am not confident children today will be as lucky as I. The trade-off between their health, and the economic benefit to the company making some new thing, is always to the company. And the justification given is there is no definitive proof of danger.

Surely the last 50 years have taught us something.

This was removed when the GTKY node it was part of was removed, without being correctly evaluated. It is one I am still proud of.

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