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Allergies: What are they really?

Allergies are a common part of everyday life for the more than 55 percent of the U.S. population who have tested positive to one or more allergens, according to WebMD. Environmental allergens, such as pollen, not only cause irritation, but also cost the healthcare system more than $7 billion annually. 

Though some people simply grin and bear it or invest in a medical-grade air purifier like the IQAir HealthPro Plus to curb side effects, some might be wondering, "Why do pollen and other allergens cause such annoying symptoms?"

Dr. Phillip Hemmers, a specialist with the Allergy Association of Fairfield County, Conn., recently discussed the back story of seasonal allergies with The Redding Pilot. 

According to Hemmers, environmental allergens, such as pollen from trees, flowers or plants, is mistaken as a danger to the immune system of people with allergies. The immune system believes the harmless substance is looking to harm the body and thus sends out the enforcer (immunoglobulin E) antibodies to fight off the pollen. The release of the antibodies ultimately causes the flair up of side effects. 

Allergy sufferers might think it's best to take cover in the home during peak season (spring to fall), but Hemmers adds it's important to carefully wash fruit and other produce to avoid the side effects as well. He reports consuming foods from pollinating trees can lead to a reaction, even if a person eats it inside. 

"It's almost like mistaken identity," Hemmers told the publication. "When you take a bite of an apple, your body thinks you are eating birch tree pollen."

Luckily for those who love the outdoors, Hemmers added there should be a calming of allergies between July and August.