Understanding Allergies: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Approaches

April 02, 2024
Allergien verstehen: Ursachen, Symptome und Behandlungsansätze
Published on  Updated on  

Allergies are one of the most common chronic health problems worldwide. They result from the immune system's reaction to foreign substances, so-called allergens, which are usually harmless. This article aims to shed light on the complex mechanisms of allergies and discuss current approaches to diagnosis and treatment.  

An allergic reaction begins when the immune system produces specific antibodies, known as immunoglobulin E (IgE), in response to the first contact with the allergen. With repeated exposure, these IgE antibodies cause cells to release histamine and other chemicals, leading to the characteristic symptoms of allergy. These allergenic substances can be pollen, animal hair, food or medication. In contrast to a normal immune reaction, in which the body fights against harmful invaders such as viruses and bacteria, in an allergy the immune system mistakenly reacts to harmless substances.  

Symptoms and their range:  

Allergy symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening and often involve a combination of physiological reactions. Milder symptoms often include sneezing, itchy eyes, redness of the skin, or mild difficulty breathing. In severe cases, anaphylaxis may occur, a serious allergic reaction that requires immediate medical treatment.  

The most common symptoms include:  

  1. Sneezing, runny or stuffy nose  
  1. Itching and redness of the eyes  
  1. Rash or urticaria (hives)  
  1. Asthma or difficulty breathing  
  1. Swelling, especially in the facial area  
  1. Gastrointestinal complaints such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea  

Causes and common allergens:  

Allergies can be triggered by a variety of substances. The most common allergens include:  

  • Pollen from trees, grasses and weeds  
  • Dust mites and mold  
  • Animal hair or dander  
  • Insect stings or bites  
  • Certain foods, such as nuts, milk, eggs or seafood  
  • Medications such as penicillin or aspirin  

Allergy types:  

There are different types of allergies based on the type of allergen and the type of immune reaction. The main categories include:  

  • Seasonal allergies (hay fever)  
  • Year-round allergies (e.g. to house dust mites)  
  • Food allergies  
  • Drug allergies  
  • Insect venom allergies  
  • Contact allergies (e.g. from nickel or latex)  

Diagnostic procedures:  

The diagnosis of an allergy usually begins with a detailed medical history and a physical examination. Diagnostic procedures include: 1) skin tests, in which the skin is exposed to small amounts of potential allergens, 2) blood tests to measure the immune response to certain allergens, 3) provocation tests, especially for food allergies.  

Therapeutic strategies:  

Avoiding known allergens is the most basic treatment. In addition, there are a number of medications, including antihistamines, corticosteroids and leukotriene modifiers. For long-term solutions, specific immunotherapy (hyposensitization) may be considered. In life-threatening reactions, adrenaline injectors are essential.  

Diet and allergies:  

Nutrition plays a central role in the immune system. Certain nutrients and bioactive substances can have immune-modulating effects. In this context, the vitamins, minerals, fatty acids or antioxidants they contain can help regulate the immune response and modulate inflammatory reactions.  

  • Vitamin C : Known for its antioxidant properties, it can inhibit histamine secretion and accelerate its breakdown, which can relieve allergy symptoms.  
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: These fatty acids, found in fish oil and flaxseed oil, may have anti-inflammatory effects and have been shown in some studies to reduce symptoms of allergic diseases.  
  • Probiotics: Taking probiotics can support the immune system and lead to a more balanced immune response, which could be beneficial for allergies.  
  • Quercetin: This flavonoid acts as a natural mast cell stabilizer and can thus prevent the release of histamine.   
  • Vitamin D : Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to increased susceptibility to allergic diseases, and supplementation may have a positive impact.  

In summary, allergies affect the lives of many people and place a significant burden on the healthcare system. From correctly identifying allergens to choosing the right therapy to educating patients and relatives - it requires a holistic approach. With advances in medical research and increasing personalization of treatment approaches, we can expect improved quality of life for allergy sufferers. Nutrition , particularly a change in diet, can also play a supporting role in dealing with allergies and be part of a holistic therapy strategy .  




  • Seth, Divya et al. “Food Allergy: A Review.” Pediatric annals vol. 49.1 (2020): e50-e58. doi:10.3928/19382359-20191206-01 
  • Goodman, Richard E et al. “The Allergen: Sources, Extracts, and Molecules for Diagnosis of Allergic Disease.” The journal of allergy and clinical immunology. In practice vol. 8.8 (2020): 2506-2514. doi:10.1016/j.jaip.2020.06.043 
  • Judith A. Woodfolk, Scott P. Commins, Alexander J. Schuyler, Elizabeth A. Erwin, Thomas AE Platts-Mills, Allergens, sources, particles, and molecules: Why do we make IgE responses?, Allergology International, Volume 64, Issue 4, 2015, Pages 295-303, ISSN 1323-8930, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.alit.2015.06.001 . 
  • Ring, John. “History of Allergy: Clinical Descriptions, Pathophysiology, and Treatment.” Handbook of experimental pharmacology vol. 268 (2022): 3-19. doi:10.1007/164_2021_509 
  • Simon, Dagmar. “Recent Advances in Clinical Allergy and Immunology 2019.” International archives of allergy and immunology vol. 180.4 (2019): 291-305. doi:10.1159/000504364 
  • Paris, JL, de la Torre, P., & Flores, AI (2021). New Therapeutic Approaches for Allergy: A Review of Cell Therapy and Bio- or Nano-Material-Based Strategies. Pharmaceutics, 13(12), 2149. https://doi.org/10.3390/pharmaceutics13122149 
Published on  Updated on  

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.