December 20, 2006 10:33am CST
An allergy refers to a misguided reaction by our immune system in response to bodily contact with certain foreign substances. It is misguided because these foreign substances are usually harmless and remain so to non- allergic people. Allergy-producing substances are called "allergens." Examples of allergens include pollens, dust mite, molds, danders, and foods. To understand the language of allergy it is important to remember that allergens are substances that are foreign to the body and can cause an allergic reaction in certain people. When an allergen comes in contact with the body, it causes the immune system to develop an allergic reaction in persons who are allergic to it. When you inappropriately react to allergens that are normally harmless to other people, you are having an allergic reaction and can be referred to as allergic or atopic. Therefore, people who are prone to allergies are said to be allergic or "atopic." Austrian pediatrician Clemens Pirquet (1874-1929) first used the term allergy. He referred to both immunity that was beneficial and to the harmful hypersensitivity as "allergy." The word allergy is derived from the Greek words "allos," meaning different or changed and "ergos," meaning work or action. Allergy roughly refers to an "altered reaction." The word allergy was first used in 1905 to describe the adverse reactions of children who were given repeated shots of horse serum to fight infection. The following year, the term allergy was proposed to explain this unexpected "changed reactivity."
23 Dec 06
thank you for explaining the etymology of allergy. how is it that some or allergic to something while others arent ? if the allergy producing / inducing substance is an external source then why doesn't it affect everybody ? if it is then defined that being allergic is an individual response to an external stimuli - then does that mean that the defect lies with the individual and not external ?