General Information

An allergy is an acquired hypersensitivity response of the immune system to an environmental substance. The propensity to develop allergies is anchored in a person’s genes in that the risk of developing an allergy is increased in the biological children of people who have allergies. In Austria, about 20% of the population suffer from allergies.

Allergy triggers, otherwise known as allergens, are delivered in a number of ways: they can be breathed onto the skin or the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract, may be ingested, or be transferred by an insect bite or sting. In a person with allergies, the immune system produces an allergic response to these allergens in an attempt to “defend” the body against substances that do not actually pose a threat to humans, such as pollen, dust mites, animal hair, mould, food, bee venom, medicines, metals, chemicals, etc.

Upon contact with the allergen, the immune system is activated and produces antibodies or, as with contact allergies, specialised defence cells. These antibodies and/or defence cells cause an allergic reaction upon renewed contact (and from that point onward in every contact) with the same substance.

The diagnosis of an allergy consists of an allergy test carried out by an expert. This comprises a detailed conversation (= anamnesis, recording the medical history), a skin test, and a blood analysis. Only a thorough examination can be used to derive appropriate treatment.

In principle, allergies are not completely curable. The right treatment, however, influences the severity and the course of an allergy favourably. Waiting an allergy out is pointless, because allergies often have serious consequences. For example, untreated allergic rhinitis often turns into bronchial asthma. The method of treatment depends on the severity of the allergy.

In people with an established allergy or allergic predisposition (elevated levels of allergy antibodies), the allergy situation should be reviewed at least once every 1-2 years as it may change over time.