Interview has been edited for clarity.
Dr. Webzell says that allergens can enter the body through many routes: via the skin, the digestive system, or inhalation. There's usually a genetic predisposition when it comes to allergies. If a family member has an allergy, you have a higher chance of developing the same one.
When an allergen enters the body, it is recognized as a foreign and harmful substance and triggers the production of an antibody called IgE.
“This brings up another complex series of processes: degranulation of some special cells called mast cells and basophils and the production of histamine, which is responsible for most of the symptoms of allergies — the mucus production, coughing, etc.,” Dr. Webzell explains.
- Airborne allergies
The most common airborne allergen is pollen, which causes what we all know as hay fever. The second most common is household dust mites. Animal dander from dogs and cats is another one, and mold spores are also a common allergen. These are the four airborne allergens.
- Food allergies
The most common food allergens are egg whites, cow's milk (learn how this kind of allergy differs from lactose intolerance), soy, wheat, nuts, fish and shellfish, and — less commonly — corn.
- Insect sting allergies
If you live somewhere warm with a lot of flowers, bees, and wasps, an allergy to their stings is pretty common.
- Medicine allergies
Medicine allergies are also quite common. A lot of kids who have allergic tendencies could be allergic to penicillin. Penicillin allergies are common, and the prevalence is increasing for a number of reasons.
- Chemical allergies
Latex is the number one chemical allergy worth mentioning. It's pretty common, so a lot of practices and hospitals now use latex-free gloves.
“And, I also want to add the nickel allergy. Some people who already have allergic tendencies also have a nickel allergy, as some jewelry and belt buckles contain nickel,” says Dr. Webzell.