Proactively Protect Your Immune Health
Hygiene aside, there are many factors that play into how well-equipped your immune system is to fight infections. Some of those things are out of your control, such as age and genetics. But there are several things you can do to keep your defenses strong, including:
- Find ways to cope with stress. Stress causes your body to make a hormone called cortisol. Over time, cortisol can lead to inflammation and reduce your bodys ability to fight of infections.
- Fuel-up smartly. A well-rounded diet with ample amounts of fiber and healthy fats help keep inflammation at bay.
- Keep moving. Regular exercise helps keep your immune system running smoothly.
- Get your Zzzs. The average adult needs about seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
- Avoid harmful substances. Smoking and excessive drinking can weaken your immune system.
What Causes Autoimmune Disease
For an autoimmune disease to occur, you typically need two things:
- a genetic predisposition
- a triggering event
Autoimmune diseases arise from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Specific variations in genes set the stage for autoimmunity by altering the development or function of immune cells.
A Lot Happens Behind The Scenesand You Wont Even Know It
Ragweed, a common allergen, in bloom
Allergies are often triggered by pollen from grass, weeds, trees and mold. Thepollen grains are carried by the wind and can land in your eyes and nose and on your skin. Traditionally, mid-to-late spring through summer is when most of these allergens are in bloom, but it also depends on where you live.
And your bodys seasonal allergy response actually starts long before you even notice a sneezy nose or itchy eyes.
If you are predisposed to allergies, the first time your body encounters a specific allergen, like ragweed, you wont actually have an allergic reaction. When your nose lining comes into contact with that ragweed, it will produce an immune system protein known as an antibodyimmunoglobulin E , to be specific.
In a process called sensitization, the immune system stores this antibody in its memory in anticipation of future encounters with ragweed. During this sensitization period, the ragweed pollen is surrounded by a group of immune cells called antigen-presenting cells , which in turn command the attention of lymphocytes that recognize the pollen as a foreign entity.
The mast cells become like a ticking bomb, says Pramod Kelkar, M.D., an allergy and immunology specialist who practices in Maple Grove, Minnesota. When these mast cells bind to IgEthat antibody your body produces when it inhales ragweed pollenit lights their fuse, he explains.
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What Kind Of Shots Are Given For Allergies
To treat allergic symptoms, many people get allergy shots. These are regular injections administered over time that help reduce symptoms and attacks. Tiny doses of a specific allergen are injected in the body to build up the bodys response to that allergen. Allergy shots are a type of immunotherapy treatment given to help individuals with seasonal allergies, stinging insect allergies, & indoor allergens
Pros And Cons Of Allergy Shots
Many allergy sufferers feel differently based on the time of year. Outdoor allergies may be mild in some months, then more severe in others as pollen counts change. How you feel depends on the season, your specific allergen triggers and how much time you spend outdoors.
It neednt be that way, though, as effective treatments are available.
An allergy is a reaction of your immune system to a foreign substance. It can be pollen, dander from pets, like dogs and cats, to different types of food. When an allergic reaction occurs, it is because your immune system manufacturers substances called antibodies that respond to a substance called an allergen. The antibodies produced attack the allergen that your immune system reacts to, as it has identified them as harmful even though the immune system is mistaken. When your immune system makes antibodies, your body may have a reaction that inflames your skin, your airways, or your digestive system.
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What Are The Side Effects
About half of the people who have this treatment experience mild side effects. This is to be expected when a person is given a substance that they are usually allergic to. The side effects include the following:
- Mild rash at the site of the injection
- Allergic reactions such as sneezing, watery eyes or mild symptoms
- Itching and swelling in the mouth
- Tiredness and headaches
These side effects are usually mild and temporary. They only rarely need to be treated.
If severe side effects occur, the dose is reduced again. It is then a good idea to rule out other possible causes too. Should other causes of these symptoms be found and treated, the dose might be increased again.
Immunotherapy can also be started during the pollen season. Some people worry that the treatment might be harder on their body at that time of year, and then cause more symptoms. But studies show that the side effects are about the same as when the immunotherapy is started in winter.
Should We Be Worried About Inhalers Inadvertently Spreading The Virus By Turning Airborne Droplets Into A Finer Aerosol
With any viral infection, doctors have to pay attention to the risk of aerosolization. But inhalers can be used safely by a patient, and they should be used when they are needed, whether you are at home or outside. If you have to use inhalers, however, its still very important to give extra distance when around other people.
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Are Allergy Shots Right For You
While we recommend you visit your doctor or allergist to ascertain whether youre a good candidate for allergy shots, these questions will also help you decide:
- What are your allergies? If youre allergic to one or more of the substances listed above, then allergy shots can help lessen your symptoms. However, if you have an allergy to latex, drugs, or certain foods, immunotherapy is not recommended.
- How bad are your allergies? If symptoms persist for longer than three out of 12 months or are impacting your daily activities then allergy shots may provide more relief than other treatment methods.
- What other treatments have you tried? If youre on a prescription antihistamine or another medication from an allergist but these dont help your symptoms, let your allergist know. They could recommend immunotherapy as your next treatment.
- Are you okay with needles? If you have a severe fear of or significant discomfort associated with needles, then you might want to rethink allergy shots. While its true the injections become less frequent as the treatment goes on, it will take a while to get there. You may want to discuss sublingual immunotherapy or SLIT with your allergist. This treatment involves you taking tablets or drops under your tongue instead of receiving injections.
Are People With Allergies More Susceptible To Coronavirus Than Others Are
At this point, we do not know. While people with compromised immune systems are at higher risk of severe COVID-19, people with allergies dont have a compromised immune system their allergies are actually an overreaction of the immune system.
That said, among people with some degree of asthma, those with worse disease tend to be in a higher-risk group for viral infections, particularly if the asthma is not well managed. So this is a good time to review the way you are managing your allergies and your asthma, if you have it. During a virtual visit, you and your doctor can go over the ways you are managing your condition and make any modifications if needed.
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Are Allergies A Sign Of A Weak Immune System
Are allergies a sign of a weak immune system? God, no. If anything, its the opposite. Allergies are caused by your immune system responding too strongly to something innocuous. In reality, misguided is probably a much better word. This is a good question that I think hits on a lot of subtle misconceptions so let me try to help address some of those.
Fundamentally, an allergic reaction occurs when your body mistakenly recognizes something that really isnt bad for you as a pathogen and attacks it . The symptoms you feel are actually due to this immune response. This is actually true in a lot of cases. Oftentimes, the symptoms you associate with an infection or wound, like a fever or swelling, are actually caused by your own immune system trying to fix you. For example, inflammation is a side effect of your own immune system sending teams of special cells to a site of distress. When doctors prescribe things like anti-inflammatories, theyre really trying to dampen your bodys immunological response.*
*Im not a doctor. This probably isnt actually true in all cases.
An Overactive Immune System
If you are born with certain genes, your immune system may react to substances in the environment that are normally harmless. These substances are called allergens. Having an allergic reaction is the most common example of an overactive immune system. Dust, mold, pollen, and foods are examples of allergens.
Some conditions caused by an overactive immune system are:
Asthma. The response in your lungs can cause coughing, wheezing, and trouble breathing. Asthma can be triggered by common allergens like dust or pollen or by an irritant like tobacco smoke.
Eczema. An allergen causes an itchy rash known as atopic dermatitis.
Allergic rhinitis. Sneezing, a runny nose, sniffling, and swelling of your nasal passages from indoor allergens like dust and pets or outdoor allergens like pollens or molds.
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Learn More About Allergy Shots From Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center
For more information about allergy treatment and prevention contact any of the 11 Charlotte, NC offices of the Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center. The offices are staffed allergists that are board certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. Get in touch with us today to schedule your appointment.
Ways To Strengthen Your Immune System To Fight Allergies
You may be able to minimize the impact of seasonal allergies by building your body’s defenses against them. Find out more about your immune system and allergies.
If you have seasonal allergies, chances are you’ve spent plenty of time cruising drugstore aisles looking for relief from allergy symptoms. You know just how wide a variety of medications there are both over-the-counter and prescription for seasonal allergies. What’s less well known is that you may also be able to get allergy relief by building up your defenses against them. Check out these tips to enhance your immune system and send allergies packing.
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Does Being Cold Give You A Weak Immune System
Almost every mother has said it: “Wear a jacket or you’ll catch a cold!” Is she right? Probably not, exposure to moderate cold temperatures doesn’t increase your susceptibility to infection. There are two reasons why winter is “cold and flu season.” In the winter, people spend more time indoors, in closer contact with other people who can pass on their germs. Also the influenza virus stays airborne longer when air is cold and less humid.
But researchers remain interested in this question in different populations. Some experiments with mice suggest that cold exposure might reduce the ability to cope with infection. But what about humans? Scientists have performed experiments in which volunteers were briefly dunked in cold water or spent short periods of time naked in subfreezing temperatures. They’ve studied people who lived in Antarctica and those on expeditions in the Canadian Rockies. The results have been mixed. For example, researchers documented an increase in upper respiratory infections in competitive cross-country skiers who exercise vigorously in the cold, but whether these infections are due to the cold or other factors such as the intense exercise or the dryness of the air is not known.
A Lot Of People Are Using This Time Of Social Distancing To Spring Clean Any Tips For Those With Spring Allergies
If your allergy is due to pollen, being inside may be helpful, and if spring cleaning makes you feel better, thats a benefit. Do keep in mind that cleaning can kick up a lot of dust, so if the issue is indoor allergens, get some clarification from your doctorduring a video visit, of course.
All of us at Weill Cornell Medicine understand that this is a difficult time for all New Yorkers. As experts in immunology, pulmonary medicine, and critical care medicine, we are working diligently to provide the greatest possible care to patients in need.
We are available to all New Yorkers who have questions or concerns. Please call our hotline at 697-4000 for information about COVID-19 or read our patient guide.
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Allergies And Your Immune System: What Is The Link
If you know anything about the human immune system its probably that if yours is weaker than it should be, you could be more susceptible to infections. But the immune system can also be overactive and react strongly to something thats completely harmless in other words, an allergic reaction. So if you have one or more allergies, its not a sign your immune system is weak. In fact, you could argue its quite the opposite.Your immune system is a complex network of cells, proteins and organs that work together to protect you against infection by viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi and other harmful micro-organisms . Normally its a highly efficient system immune cells recognise a pathogen, and that triggers a response from the rest of the immune system to hunt and destroy the pathogen.If you have an allergy, however, your immune system mistakenly recognises something non-infectious as a pathogen pollen, in the case of hay fever for instance. It overreacts, believing youre under threat, and the result is an immune system attack that was never necessary in the first place.Besides pollen, some of the common substances that confuse your immune system in this way include dust mites, some medicines, moulds, pet dander , insect venom and certain foods, all of which are classed as allergens.
How Is The Immune System Trained To Understand The Difference Between Friend And Foe
Without a system to differentiate between friends and foes, our immune systems would be reacting to everything we breathe in, we eat and even to the proteins in our own bodies! We could not survive such an onslaught. Thus, a sophisticated system has evolved to train our armies of immune cells to fight only real enemies. The immune system learns to differentiate between what is part of the body from what is foreign and then if it is foreign to differentiate between a harmless foreigner and a dangerous foreigner. Immune tolerance as this mechanism is termed, starts while we are developing in the womb and continues in early childhood. There are different ways in which tolerance is created.
1. Central: this is the system that ensures that if the antibodies to self proteins are ever created the B cells producing them are destroyed . Similarly, if T cells bearing antibodies to self proteins are produced, they are deleted.
2. Peripheral: if any B or T cells escape the central tolerance mechanism, specialised T cells , whose job is to calm down the immune system come into play.
4. Similar mechanisms occur in the lungs. My PhD work showed that the sentinel cells in the lungs of people with asthma produce more cytokines and hence trigger an inflammatory reaction more easily compared with people without asthma.
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How Do I Find Out If I Have Allergies
If you sneeze and itch a lot, wheeze, or often get sick after eating a certain food, your doctor may want to check you for allergies. He or she will ask you a lot of questions about your health, about the animals and plants in your home, and about the foods you eat. Your answers will provide clues about what you might be allergic to, and your doctor may ask you to stay away from a pet or stop eating a certain food to see if your symptoms go away.
Your doctor may send you to an allergist , a special doctor who helps people who have allergies. An allergist may give you a scratch test to see if a tiny bit of an allergen will cause a reaction on your skin. You’ll feel a quick pinch when the doctor makes the scratch or scratches. If you’re allergic, one or more spots will become bumpy, itchy, and red like a mosquito bite.
Some doctors also might test a kid’s blood to look for IgE, a substance called an antibody that signals an allergic reaction. If you have large amounts of this antibody in your blood, you are probably allergic to the allergen.
How To Give Relief To Strong Immune System
As someone whos battle allergies for a long time, I have a list of things I do to keep my allergy symptoms at bay. Rest, exercise, supplements are all part of an everyday routine that gives my skin, symptoms, and immune system relief.
Although its difficult to keep my immune system from misfiring, I can take steps in my environment to reduce my allergies. Here is my list below:
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