Did you know that allergic reactions come in different shapes and sizes? While many people assume that all hypersensitivities are created equal, the fact is that when your immune system overreacts to a trigger that typically doesn't bother most other people, the effect it has on your body can fall into several different categories. Type 1 allergies are the most common type. Most nasal allergies, allergic asthma, and food allergies fall within this grouping. Therefore, if you suffer from typical allergy symptoms, chances are that type 1 allergies are the cause.

What is a Type 1 Allergy?

Type 1 allergies occur when a foreign substance sparks your body to produce an antibody that combines with IgE (immunoglobin E) and causes a reaction. Your entire system will be affected by a type 1 allergy, although the symptoms can vary, including sneezing, itching, coughing, hives, itchy eyes, and stomach ailments. In some cases, type 1 allergies can also cause an anaphylactic reaction, which can be life threatening if it isn't treated quickly.

How Type 1 Allergies Occur

Type 1 allergies usually occur in two separate phases.

Phase 1: The initial phase is exposure to your allergen. This causes you to produce the IgE antibody, which that attaches to the tissues in your body and your bloodstream and sensitizes your immune system to this trigger.

Phase 2: The next time you come into contact with the allergen, the IgE antibody will latch on to this trigger and this will cause a release of histamine and other chemicals that lead to your symptoms.

Timing of a Hypersensitivity Reaction

Often with a type 1 allergy, you'll experience the reaction within a half hour or less after you've been exposed to your trigger. In extreme cases, though, there may be a delay for as long as 12 hours.

Diagnosing a Type 1 Allergy

If you believe you have type 1 allergic reactions to things you eat, drink, or come into contact with at home, work, or outdoors, your doctor can do some diagnostic testing to determine what's causing the problem. He'll also want to rule out issues such as intolerance to wheat, gluten, and lactose, all of which can cause gastrointestinal symptoms that look similar to a food allergy but don't involve an immune system reaction.

Risk Factors for a Type 1 Allergy

Doctors believe that people who suffer from type 1 hypersensitivity reactions are usually genetically predisposed to the problem, since allergies tend to run in families.  But environmental factors can also cause type 1 allergies.

How to Treat a Type 1 Allergy/Hypersensitivity Reaction

The best way to treat type 1 allergies is to allergy-proof your home and workplace to help minimize exposure to your triggers. You can also take allergy medications to manage your symptoms. When medicine and lifestyle modifications aren't enough to help you control your type 1 allergies and keep you comfortable, you can also talk to your doctor about undergoing immunotherapy to help build up your tolerance to your biggest allergens.


"Allergies." American Association for Clinical Chemistry. AACC, 5 April 2011. Web. Aug. 21 2011.

"Introduction to Medical Microbiology: Hypersensitivity." Southern Illinois University Carbondale. SIU, n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2011.