Genes and Gender Help Determine Allergies

Allergy is a sensitivity of your immune system to specific substances (like nuts, milk, weeds, grass pollens, cats, dogs, etc.) In effect, your immune system overreacts and triggers a reaction in your body when it misinterprets innocent particles as being harmful. So all of those crummy symptoms that plague you during allergy season are really just outward manifestations of the things your body is doing to protect itself against an enemy—that isn’t really an enemy at all!

Genes and Gender Help Determine Allergies

What you are not seeing inside your body is that it is producing antibodies that cause basophils and mast cells to release chemicals, including histamine, into the bloodstream. Histamine causes inflammation of the nose, sinus cavities, throat, skin, eyes, and more! That swelling and inflammation is what makes you feel miserable.

Allergies in the Family

So why are you allergic? Well, it may likely pertain to your family tree. The tendency to have allergies can be hereditary. Research has shown that if one parent has a particular allergy, a child has about a 50 percent chance of developing allergies. When both parents have allergies, that number leaps up to a 75 percent chance.

New research shows that there is a gender component, though, too. A study based out of the Southhampton General Hospital (United Kingdom) followed 1,500 youth from age 1 to 18 and discovered that the incidence of allergies in children only increased when a parent of the same gender had allergies. Under these conditions, children were 50 percent more likely to develop asthma and/or eczema. (The results were the same between boys with an allergic father and girls with an allergic mother.)

Allergy Treatment Programs

There needn’t always be a genetic influence. It’s possible for people to develop allergies in reaction to their environment. Fortunately, whatever the source of the allergy, it can be treated. Talk to a physician about allergy testing. If treatment is indicated, consider allergy immunotherapy which is the only treatment that actually alters the source of the allergy—not simply its symptoms.

Your doctor may prescribe sublingual immunotherapy (oral allergy drops) or subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots). Insurance companies are more likely to cover allergy shots than they are to cover the cost of sublingual immunotherapy (allergy drops). However, allergy drops are easier to administer (can be taken at home) and safer. Your doctor can help you weigh the pros and cons and help you make the best choice for your health.

Environmental allergies can lead to hay fever, sinus infections, asthma, ear infections, eczema, and hives. Food allergies can lead to many of the above symptoms as well as gastrointestinal upset and an inflammation of the esophagus known as eosinophilic esophagitis.

About The Author

Stuart H. Agren, M.D.

Stuart H. Agren, M.D. completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Utah and went on to earn his Doctor of Medicine from Tulane University School of Medicine in 1974. He completed additional training at L.D.S. Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah and then established his private medical practice starting in 1975. Dr. Agren completed a mini-residency in Industrial Medicine at the Robert Johnson School of Medicine at Rutgers University and also completed training to become a certified Medical Review Officer.

Dr. Agren was the Medical Director at TRW and McDonnell Douglas in Mesa, Arizona and at Stauffer Chemical and Kennecott Copper in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at Arizona State University.

In his private medical practice, Dr. Agren specialized in family practice and allergy. In his work as a private practice allergist, he was one of the first doctors in the country to prescribe sublingual immunotherapy to his patients as an alternative to subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots). He has also been a trailblazer in the field of food allergy treatment and research, developing a program to treat multiple food allergies simultaneously using sublingual immunotherapy. Dr. Agren has been featured on local CBS, NBC, and ABC news affiliates and won the peer-nominated “Top Doc” award from Phoenix Magazine.

After 20 years in private practice, Dr. Agren became the Founder and President of AllergyEasy, which helps primary care physicians around the country offer allergy testing and sublingual immunotherapy treatment to their patients. Over 200 physicians in over 32 states use the AllergyEasy program to help their patients overcome environmental and food allergies and asthma.