Are Allergies Genetic?
Allergies are caused by several factors, with genetics being one of them. If you have people in your family with allergies, there is a greater chance that you’ll develop them as well. Of course, genetics isn’t the only thing that can cause a person to develop allergies.
In this blog, we’ll discuss the link between genetics and allergies, along with additional risk factors that can increase your chance of having allergies. If you’re interested in learning what allergies you have, get an at-home allergy test kit to discover your allergy profile, or read on to learn more about allergies and genetics.
According to the Asthma & Allergy Network, there is a hereditary component to allergies. In other words, if your parents have allergies, you have an increased chance of also developing allergies. In fact, studies have shown this link to be fairly strong. If one parent has allergies, children are 50% more likely to develop an allergy. If both parents have allergies, children are 75% more likely to develop an allergy.
Your allergies occur due to your immune system overreacting to a harmless environmental substance. These substances include pollen, pet dander, food, mold spores, and a variety of other allergens. While genetics may play a factor in your allergies, there are other factors at play as well. Let’s talk about some of those other factors.
While it’s not totally clear why allergies occur, the current theory is that environmental factors play a role along with the aforementioned genetic factors.
The risk factors that may increase your risk of developing an allergy may include:
Expert opinions differ on whether your environment plays a role in developing allergies or whether it can help prevent them. Chances are it could be a bit of both.
Some theories state that early exposure to certain allergens can help prevent developing allergies, while others say that too much early exposure can cause allergies to develop later on. It likely depends on what kind of exposure you get. For instance, having a dog in the house as a baby may help prevent pet dander allergies, but being overexposed to dust and getting respiratory infections as a child may make you more likely to develop dust mite allergies.
A diet that is high in sugary and processed foods may contribute to the development of allergies during childhood and later in life. Generally, it’s better for your health to have a well-balanced diet that prioritizes good nutrition.
Stress and Emotion
Though allergies aren’t developed from stress, high stress can worsen allergy symptoms. Histamine can be released in times of high stress, which is a contributor to symptoms.
Studies from the American Society for Microbiology indicate that antibiotics may cause upper respiratory sensitivity in some people, which could contribute to the development of allergies. Some people are also allergic to antibiotics such as penicillin.
Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke can increase your risk for allergies. It can also cause damage to the lungs, which can make certain allergy symptoms harder to deal with, especially if you have asthma.
Allergies can bring in two different sets of symptoms, the more pressing of which is known as an immediate response reaction. An immediate response reaction may require emergency medical attention.
When you have an immediate response reaction you may notice symptoms such as:
- Throat swelling
- Swelling of face, lips, and mouth
- Skin swelling
- Difficulty breathing
An immediate response reaction can also bring on a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis causes your throat to swell to the point where you’re unable to breathe. If anaphylaxis occurs, call emergency services to receive treatment. If you are prone to anaphylactic responses, it’s recommended to carry an EpiPen, which can curb an anaphylactic response as you wait for further treatment.
The more common allergy symptoms are known as delayed response symptoms. Though these symptoms are unpleasant, they’re rarely life-threatening.
Here are some of the common delayed response symptoms you may experience from allergies:
- Runny nose
- Scratchy throat
- Itchy eyes
- Watery eyes
- Aggravated asthma symptoms
Typically, these delayed response symptoms can be managed and even treated for long-term relief. Let’s talk about how you can manage and prevent allergy symptoms.
Management and Prevention
Limit Your Exposure
If you’re looking to reduce your allergy symptoms, limiting your exposure to your allergens is a good place to start. Depending on what allergy you have, it might be difficult to avoid the substance completely.
With that being said, here are some good methods you can try.
- Check pollen and mold levels: If you’re allergic to pollen or mold, you can check an app or website to find out what the pollen count and mold spore count are for the day. If you notice that the levels are high, try to stay indoors on those days.
- Mask up: If you do need to go outside on a high pollen day, an N95 mask can help keep pollen from getting in your mouth and nose. It’s also a good idea to wear sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes.
- Kill mold in your home: Mold allergies can be indoor and outdoor allergies. If you have mold in your home, it can definitely aggravate your symptoms. The best approach is to lower humidity levels to less than 50%, find any water leaks in your home and fix them, and kill any mold you find with cleaning agents or a white vinegar solution.
- Do laundry more often: Airborne allergens can stick to your clothes, so it’s a good idea to do laundry frequently, especially during allergy season. You should also avoid drying your clothes outside.
- Shower after being outside: If you have seasonal allergies, it’s best to shower if you’ve been outside for any extended periods. Pollen can stick to your skin and get in your hair.
- Vacuum and clean your home often: Keeping your house clean is a good idea for indoor and outdoor allergies. Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter can help you get dust mites, pollen, pet dander, and other allergens off your floors. You’ll also want to dust other hard surfaces with a wet rag.
- Remove carpet: If possible, remove as much carpeting from your home as you can, since this traps allergens.
- Install an air filter: Install a HEPA filter on your air conditioning system to filter out as many pollutants and particulates as possible. During pollen seasons, you should keep the windows closed too.
- Brush and bathe pets: If you have a pet dander allergy and you own pets, brushing them and bathing them often can help reduce how much dander is in the home. It’s best to brush them outside, and if you can have someone else who doesn’t have allergies brush and bathe them, that’s even better.
Although limiting your exposure can help to a point, it’s often not enough for most allergy sufferers. Taking allergy medication is another way to manage symptoms.
Try Allergy Medication
There are several over-the-counter (OTC) options for allergy medications. For most people, a daily antihistamine can help you manage allergy symptoms with minimal side effects.
Here are the types of allergy medications you may want to consider:
- Antihistamines: These drugs block the production of histamine, which causes various allergy symptoms. There are a variety of products available, including non-drowsy and options for children.
- Nasal sprays: These specifically help with runny and stuffy noses. Allergens in your nasal passages can cause swelling and inflammation. A nasal spray can help flush out the allergens and reduce your inflammation.
- Eye drops: If you have itchy and watery eyes from your allergies, these can help to flush out the allergens.
- Decongestants: If you’re feeling congested from your allergy symptoms, a decongestant may help.
While typical OTC allergy medications can help provide temporary relief for your symptoms, they aren’t a long-term solution. If you are looking for longer-term relief immunotherapy might be the best solution for you.
If you want to treat your symptoms instead of just managing them, then you may want to consider immunotherapy. Immunotherapy retrains your immune system to ignore your allergy triggers by introducing small, gradually increasing doses of the substance to your system.
Immunotherapy usually comes in two forms — allergy shots and sublingual immunotherapy. Allergy shots require you to visit the doctor every time you get an injection and require the use of needles. Sublingual immunotherapy, on the other hand, can be taken in the comfort of your own home and are painless; you simply take them by mouth.
Take Our Allergy Assessment
Dealing with your allergies and getting them under control doesn’t have to be something you do on your own. Wyndly’s doctors can create a personalized treatment plan designed to treat your allergies. It all starts with our at-home test and allergy assessment. Take our allergy assessment today to find out how Wyndly can help you.
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