Physical Allergy (Encyclopedia of Medicine)
Physical allergies are allergic reactions to cold, sunlight, heat, or minor injury.
The immune system is designed to protect the body from harmful invaders such as germs. Occasionally, it goes awry and attacks harmless or mildly noxious agents, doing more harm than good. This event is termed allergy if the target is from the outsideike pollen or bee venomnd autoimmunity if it is caused by one of the body's own components.
The immune system usually responds only to certain kinds of chemicals, namely proteins. However, non-proteins can trigger the same sort of response, probably by altering a protein to make it look like a target. Physical allergy refers to reactions in which a protein is not the initial inciting agent.
Sometimes it takes a combination of elements to produce an allergic reaction. A classic example is drugs that are capable of sensitizing the skin to sunlight. The result is phototoxicity, which appears as an increased sensitivity to sunlight or as localized skin rashes on sunexposed areas.
Causes and symptoms
- Minor injury, such as scratching, causes itchy welts to develop in about 5% of people. The presence of itchy welts (urticaria) is a condition is called dermographism.
(The entire section is 568 words.)
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