General Paediatrics, Asthma and Allergy

Dr John Chapman   FRCPCH
  Consultant Paediatrician (NHS & Private)

Making sick children better.

Allergy

Allergy Clinic for Children, Norfolk and Suffolk

I have been running the Children's Allergy clinic at the James Paget Hospital since 2000. I have seen lots of children and families with lots of different allergies. Learn more about the clinic


What is an Allergy

An allergy happens when your body over-reacts to something that most people would tolerate. it might be a food, something that you touch or something that you breathe in.


Our immune system is a collection of different processes in our bodies that are designed to protect us from bacteria, viruses, fungi and worms which try to get into our bodies by various means. To do this, your immune system needs to be able to recognise what is part of your body and what is foreign to you. It should also be able to recognise which of these foreign things are harmful and which are harmless. If you have allergies, this is where things go wrong.


Our immune system is looking at millions of different things every day and trying to work out where it should focus its efforts. Sometimes it gets the focus wrong and decides to launch an all out attack on something that would never harm us - like a peanut or a tiny piece of pollen. Once your immune system has made up it's mind that something is bad for us, it is very difficult to persuade it otherwise.


When you come into contact with something foreign to you, your immune system takes a look at it. If it has previously decided to treat it as a potential invader, it will send out specialised immune cells and chemicals to attack it. because there is no danger and nothing to attack, these cells and chemicals just cause damage to your own bodies tissues which are caught in the crossfire. the chemicals used in the attack are very potent and they cause swelling, redness and irritation.


If this attack happens in your skin, you will get swollen, red itchy lumps call Urticaria (which is the Latin name for the stinging nettle plant). if it happens a lot in the same part of your skin, you will get a more long-standing reaction like a dermatitis or eczema.


Now, imagine this reaction happening up you nose (Hay Fever or allergic rhinitis), in your lungs (asthma) or in your stomach and gut (food allergy). 


Most of the time this reaction stays locally in the tissues but sometimes it can set of a larger reaction which effects the whole body and the blood circulating system: this is called anaphylaxis (ana-fil-axis) which can be fatal.


Why don't you read our Frequently Asked Questions?


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