• Question: Why are people allergic to different things ?

    Asked by emmab to Adam, Chris, Eleanor, Jessamyn, Sinead on 14 Nov 2013.
    • Photo: Sinead Cullen

      Sinead Cullen answered on 14 Nov 2013:

      Hi Emma,
      People are allergic to different things because as you know everyone is unique, while still having some of the same things like a heart, or a brain. Another thing everybody else has is an immune system. An immune system is what protects us from colds and flu’s and some bacterial infections. However everyones immune system is not the same. Some peoples immune system can behave differently.

      The reason people can be allergic to things is because there immune system can over-react to certain things, see this as a threat and will tell your body to have a reaction, like a rash or a temperature, or for example someone who has hayfever. That is there body over reacting to pollen.

      I have hayfever which is linked to my Asthma which is very annoying in Summer, and again it is my immune system over reacting to the pollen.

      Hope this helps 🙂

    • Photo: Eleanor Holmes

      Eleanor Holmes answered on 14 Nov 2013:

      The only thing I know about allergies is my own experience with them. I get hay-fever every Summer and every time flowers get brought into my house or anywhere near me. It’s very unpleasant. I know that what happens is the pollen travels through my nose and into my body where my immune system thinks it is dangerous and tries to get rid of it by making me sneeze and my eyes water and my nose run. It’s fantastic! I wish I could tell my body to relax, it’s only pollen, it can’t hurt me.

      I also have a few allergies that give me contact rashes – rashes on my skin where I have touched the thing I am allergic to. I am allergic to some detergents in soap and to some metals like cobalt, nickel and zinc. Nickel and zinc are found in coins and some cheaper jewelry. I can’t wear rings or necklaces unless they are 24 carat gold! (Bling). I work with cobalt so I have to be very careful to wear gloves while I am handling it and to wash my hands. Once I made the mistake of scratching my face with my gloved hand after handling cobalt. My lip swelled up like a balloon for three days!

      My mother has the same allergy to metals as I do, so I guess that must be partially genetic. But she doesn’t get hay-fever in the summer at all. My dad always had a runny nose in the mornings though. Maybe I get my allergies from both sides!

      The more serious allergies, like food allergies, don’t seem to be handed down from parent to child. I don’t know what causes them. Or why sometimes they go away or appear suddenly. Allergies suck!

    • Photo: Adam Murphy

      Adam Murphy answered on 14 Nov 2013:

      What Sinead and Eleanor have said is great, but I just heard something icky at a science talk.

      There’s a theory called the Hygiene Hypothesis, and it’s about parasites!

      Parasites are things that live on, or in other animals. Using them for their own benefit. Tapeworms are a kind of parasite.

      But in this part of the world we’ve gotten really good at getting rid of parasites. And some scientists think this is a bad thing.

      They think our immune system needs something to fight and without parasites they start attacking things like pollen, giving us allergies like hay fever!

      They say we should start getting parasites again. But that’s far too icky to do!

      Science can be great and it can be gross, and sometimes it’s both.