Eli5: how does the immune system fail to identify allergens as benign?


Eli5: how does the immune system fail to identify allergens as benign?

In: 8

Imagine your immune system as a team of superheroes that protect your body from bad guys like germs and viruses. They have special powers to recognize and attack these bad guys to keep you healthy. But sometimes, they make a mistake and think something harmless, like pollen or certain foods, is a bad guy. This is what happens in allergies.

Normally, your immune system has a way of identifying the bad guys by their unique features. It’s like they have a book of pictures that shows them who the bad guys are. But in the case of allergens, something goes wrong. The immune system gets confused and mistakenly thinks the allergens are dangerous.

It’s a bit like if your superheroes’ book of pictures got mixed up, and they started attacking the wrong people. Instead of only fighting the real bad guys, they also attack harmless things like pollen or peanuts, which aren’t actually dangerous to you.

This confusion causes your immune system to overreact and launch an attack against the allergens. It releases special chemicals called histamines to protect you, but these chemicals can cause symptoms like sneezing, itching, or even trouble breathing.

Scientists are still trying to understand why this confusion happens, but it’s believed that both genetic factors (things you inherit from your parents) and environmental factors can play a role. It’s important to remember that allergies are not anyone’s fault. Your immune system just gets a bit mixed up sometimes!