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Definition of Reaction, allergic

Reaction, allergic: A reaction that occurs when the immune system attacks a usually harmless substance (an allergen) that gains access to the body. The immune system calls upon a protective substance called immunoglobulin E (IgE) to fight these invading allergic substances (allergens). Even though everyone has some IgE, an allergic person has an unusually large army of these IgE defenders -in fact, too many for their own good. This army of IgE antibodies attacks and engages the invading army of allergic substances of allergens. As is often the case in war, innocent bystanders are affected by this battle. These innocent bystanders are special cells called mast cells. These cells are frequently injured during the warring of the IgE antibodies and the allergic substances. When a mast cell is injured, it releases a variety of strong chemicals including histamine into the tissues and blood that frequently cause allergic reactions. These chemicals are very irritating and cause itching, swelling, and fluid leaking from cells. These allergic chemicals can cause muscle spasm and can lead to lung and throat tightening as is found in asthma and loss of voice.

Source: MedTerms™ Medical Dictionary
http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=5228
Last Editorial Review: 6/14/2012

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