Allergic Cascade

The allergic cascade facts

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  • The allergic response is usually very selective for specific allergens.
  • T- and B-lymphocytes play important roles in the allergic reaction.
  • Mast cells and basophils release a variety of chemical mediators and cytokines that cause allergic inflammation.
  • The immediate or "early" phase allergic reaction is subsequently followed by a more prolonged "late" phase reaction.
  • Histamine is an important chemical mediator that causes many of the common allergic symptoms.
  • Knowledge of the allergic cascade has resulted in effective treatments for allergy. Future research is aimed at finding new agents that intervene at specific levels of the allergic reaction.

The immune system is very specific and goal oriented. Although you may be allergic to a number of substances, allergic reactions are directed at specific allergens. For example, you may be allergic to Bermuda grass, but not oysters. At times, however, two or more foreign substances might appear similar in nature to the immune system, which may mistake one for the other and react to both. For example, if you are allergic to birch trees, your immune system may also react to apples or other fruits, which it mistakes for birch pollen. These cross-reactions occur because of similar allergens that are produced by a variety of plants. The allergic response, however, is by no means vague or ill-defined. It is a definite, vigorous attack aimed, unfortunately, at harmless agents. The end result is well-defined symptoms and disorders.

The deeper our understanding of the intricate nature of the allergic reaction, the more likely we are to find more effective treatments. We need to look more closely at the chain of events from the initial response to allergens to the many symptoms that may result. Although misguided, it is an efficient, well-orchestrated, and potentially explosive sequence of cellular and chemical interactions. This is the so-called "allergic cascade."

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/16/2014

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