Allergen

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An allergen is a nonparasitic antigen capable of stimulating a type-I hypersensitivity reaction in atopic individuals.[1]

Most humans mount significant Immunoglobulin E (IgE) responses only as a defense against parasitic infections. However, some individuals mount an IgE response against common environmental antigens. This hereditary predisposition is called atopy. In atopic individuals, non-parasitic antigens stimulate inappropriate IgE production, leading to type I hypersensitivity. Sensitivities vary from one person to another and it is possible to be allergic to an extraordinary range of substances.

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Types of allergies

Dust mite excretion, pollen and pet dander are all common allergens, but it is possible to be allergic to anything from chlorine to perfume to royal jelly.[2] Food allergies are not as common as food sensitivity, but some foods such as peanuts (a legume), nuts, seafood and shellfish are the cause of serious allergies in many people.

Officially, the United States Food and Drug Administration does recognize eight foods as being common for allergic reactions in a large segment of the sensitive population. These include peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, shellfish, fish, wheat and their derivatives, soy and their derivatives, and sulfites (chemical based, often found in flavors and colors in foods) at 10ppm and over. See the FDA website for complete details. It should be noted that other countries, due to differences in the genetic profiles of its citizens and different levels of exposure to different foods, the "official" allergen list will change. Canada recognizes all eight of the allergens recognized by the US, and also recognizes sesame seeds.[3]

A few people have been recorded to be allergic to certain chemicals found in almost all water,[citation needed] and even water itself (see Aquagenic pruritus).

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