Finding out you are allergic to something isn’t any fun. Many things you might have enjoyed eating may now be off-limits. Some people are allergic to corn, wheat, and other grains. Others might be allergic to milk and dairy products. There are those allergic to peanuts and nuts, while some are even allergic to fish and meat products.

Allergies and sensitivities to things around us come in many forms. Food allergies, like the ones listed above, are just a few of many. Many people struggle with environmental allergies like pet dander, molds, grass, pollen, and trees. The number of people who are allergic to chemicals is growing steadily every year. These people need to avoid cleaning products like laundry detergents and soaps, as well as dyes, pesticides, and certain medicines like penicillin.

How an allergy affects us varies greatly from one person to the next. Sometimes it’s not the obvious signs of sneezing, watery eyes, or a case of hives that tell us we are allergic. Allergies can change people’s emotions or make them hyperactive. Allergies might make muscles and joints ache, or become a cold that never seems to go away.

It’s often thought that a person’s allergies are inherited. Statistics show that if one of your parents has allergies, you are 50% more likely to develop allergies as well. If both of your parents have allergies, your chances jump to 75 %. But inheriting allergies is not the only way a person can develop them. Food allergies can be caused by a weak immune system or by eating the same foods over and over. Environmental allergies can occur by overexposure. 

So how do you find out if you have allergies? Most people will go to their doctor to have tests taken. There are skin tests, blood tests, and alternative methods like muscle testing. You can become a detective yourself and possibly discover allergies by keeping a diary of what you eat or what you are exposed to and the symptoms that result.

I invite you to study the world of allergies with me!

Science

What happens to your body when you develop an allergy? How does it affect your immune system? Let’s take a close look into the intricate ways our bodies function when allergies come in to play.

     •   First we need to find out what an allergy is. Look up the definition of an allergy.

     •   What triggers allergies?

     •   There are several kinds of allergies, but some are more common than others. What are the eight most common allergies?

     •   A normal reaction to a bee sting is different from an allergic reaction to a bee sting. What is the difference? What should you do if you see someone having an allergic reaction?

     •   What are common reactions your body will have if the item you’re allergic to (the allergen) is in the air?

     •   What reactions are common if the allergen is digested?

     •   Environmental allergies are often worse in the spring. What types of plants produce the most allergy-causing pollen?

     •   What is an IgE and what does it do?

Vocabulary

histamines, anaphylaxis, allergen, photosensitivity, asthma, eczema, celiac disease, elimination diet, antibodies, mast cell

Activities

     •   When does the allergy season begin and end? Research the plants in your area to find out which are active during allergy season.

     •   Ask family members and friends about their allergies. Make a list of the symptoms that can occur and how to treat them. Add any additional information, like which places or foods they should avoid and which are safe.