Up to 50 million Americans, including 2 million children, have some type of allergy. For most people, allergies are just an inconvenience. According to the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, they are a major cause of disability in the U.S. In fact, it has been estimated that allergies account for the loss of over two million school days per year.
What Are Allergies?
An allergy is an overreaction of the immune system toward a substance that is typically harmless to most people. But in someone with an allergy, the body’s immune system treats the substance, called an allergen, as an invader and reacts inappropriately resulting in harm to the person.
Who Gets Allergies?
Children inherit allergic tendencies from their parents. A few children have allergies in spite of no family member having these, but if one parent has allergies, there is a one in four chance that a child will also have allergies. The risk increases if both parents have allergies.
Do I Have an Allergy to Something?
Some allergies are fairly easy to identify because the pattern of symptoms following certain exposures can be hard to miss. But other allergies are less obvious because they can masquerade as other conditions.
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