You're probably thankful to your parents for passing on their good looks, intelligence and perseverance. Yet when it comes to allergies, you may not be quite as pleased to find out they could be to blame for giving you their symptoms. But the fact is that allergies are often hereditary, which means they can be passed down from generation to generation within families.

The Allergy Gene

Not everyone who has allergies can blame their parents or grandparents for giving them the “allergy genes,” but current research does show that there is often a family relationship. Some researchers estimate that if you have one parent who has allergies, there is a 50 percent chance you will follow in his or her footsteps. Your risk increases to 70 percent if both parents suffer from this condition.

What this Means

When you have an allergy, what it really means is that your immune system is wired to respond to a particular substance (or substances) as though it is a foreign invader by creating a chemical called histamine to try to fight it. As a result, you will be plagued by a host of uncomfortable symptoms that result, such as itchy eyes, nose and throat, sneezing and hives.

Allergies can be due to indoor and outdoor or seasonal triggers, and can also be caused by foods, perfumes, chemicals and insect bites, among many other possibilities.

And keep in mind that while the tendency to have an allergy may be hereditary, the actual type of allergy you could experience may vary from family member to family member. This means that you may be sensitive to grass and trees, while your older sibling has a dust allergy and the younger one is allergic to bee stings and ragweed.

Other Factors

While the latest findings clearly support the family connection as the leading factor in allergies, some researchers are also studying the role that environmental conditions can also play in increasing a person’s tendencies to develop such reactions.

Treating Your Symptoms

Regardless of who or what is to blame for your allergies, when the symptoms hit, you will want to seek prompt treatment. You should talk to an allergist and share your family history, as well as your individual experiences, to find out the best course of action for you. Often a combination of controlling your environment and taking allergy medications will be an effective approach.

Beating the Odds

Some public health experts point out that while you can’t cure allergies or stop your relatives from having them, getting childhood infections at a young age may actually help you to beat the odds yourself. This is because when your immune system kicks in to fight viral and bacterial invaders, it can help to minimize the chance of it going into overdue to fight against harmless allergens.