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Understanding Allergies 101

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Course Description

Why do some people experience allergic reactions, while others do not? In this course, you will learn why this is, as well as the mechanics that allows the body to react in this way. In the first half of the course, you will explore common allergies such as food, mold and pet dander. However, during the second half, you will also be exposed to information regarding more complex allergies, such as autoimmune allergic reactions, contact allergies and allergic reactions to prescription and over the counter medication. You will conclude the course with a solid foundation to recognize allergies in their various forms, as well as understand the best methods for their management.

Millions of people suffer from allergies with studies showing anywhere from a 17% to 50% increase in some allergies over the last 50 years. Not just limited to food and pollen, it is possible to develop an allergy to any number of things. In fact, many people suffer from more than one form of allergy. However to understand how this is possible, it is important to first understand what an allergy is and how it manifests in the body.

What are Allergies?

An allergy is the result of an abnormal reaction of the immune system to a particular item that comes into contact with your body. This can be something like food- a very common trigger, something airborne like pollen, or a particular medicine or skin care product. Allergies can cause symptoms ranging from red eyes and a runny nose, to more serious problems such as the inability to breathe, hives and even death.

In the case of someone who is allergic, they have developed a hypersensitivity to a particular item- one that most people tolerate just fine. This sensitivity prompts the symptoms of an allergic reaction or "allergy attack". The item that triggers the reaction is called an allergen.

Symptoms vary based on the type of allergy, but often include:

  • Redness

  • Itchy eyes, skin or throat

  • Swelling

  • Problems breathing

  • Asthma

  • Hives

  • Runny Nose

  • Rashes

  • Congestion

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Swelling of the lips, tongue or throat

  • Upset stomach or gastrointestinal disturbances

  • Tightness of the chest

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Loss of consciousness.

An extremely dangerous and potentially fatal allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis, which can cause an immediate drop in blood pressure, as well as rapid swelling of the airways. If not treated immediately, anaphylaxis can result in shock and potentially death. This is the worst case scenario when it comes to an allergic reaction and must be treated in a specific manner. Due to its importance, proper identification and treatment of anaphylaxis will be covered in detail in a future lesson.

Types of Allergies

An allergen is anything which the body experiences a hypersensitivity to and which produces an allergic reaction. There are numerous allergens and some are external, while others are internal. Allergic reactions to external environmental allergens include things such as pollen and mold and can be hard to control. However, more controllable internal allergens such as peanuts and milk can be reduced or eliminated once identified.

Additionally, some allergies are classified as "seasonal", while others are "perennial"- or year round. Seasonal allergies include Hay Fever, which is an allergic reaction to pollen or dust and occurs mainly in the spring, summer and fall. Perennial allergies describe allergens that are usually of the indoor variety and present year round, such as cat dander. The type of allergy- internal vs. external and seasonal vs. perennial will play a large part in determining a treatment plan.

The most common forms of allergies include:

  • Pollen
  • Dust
  • Various foods (wheat, peanuts, milk, etc.)
  • Insect stings
  • Animal dander
  • Mold
  • Medications (penicillin, steroids, etc.)
  • Latex (gloves, condoms, etc.)
  • Household cleaners
  • Chemical based skin and personal care products
  • Certain plants and flowers
  • Certain types of material or clothing

How do Allergies Develop - The Immune System


Almost any item can act as an allergen. For most of the population, the items above are harmless. However, specific abnormalities in the body's immune response trigger the symptoms of an allergy attack. How does this happen?

The immune system is the body's internal defense mechanism. It works tirelessly to identify foreign invaders in the form of bacteria, viruses and other pathogens and eradicate them. This is accomplished by a highly tuned identification and elimination process. The immune system employs an extremely complex network of various cells, organs and tissue. White blood cells are the most well-known immune system agent, of which there are many types. The sole purpose of the immune system is to search out and destroy what is known as an antigen- or a substance harmful to the body. However, in some cases the immune system also fights what is known as a self-antigen. Self-antigens are healthy cells, tissues and organs that for some reason the body has marked as dangerous.

When the body identifies a harmful antigen, a myriad of processes are initiated to deal with it, involving the following players:

Lymphocytes are also known as white blood cells and are a critical to overall immune function.

Antibodies, also called immunoglobulins and gammaglobulins are produced by the white blood cells (Lymphocytes), are a molecule produced by immune cells that seek out an antigen and leads to its destruction.

Auto-antibodies are produced by the immune system and to mistakenly attack the body's own healthy tissue and organs.

Inflammation is caused by a group of immune system cells and molecules that invade tissues and organs as part of an immune system response. This prompts the heat, redness and swelling that is seen with allergic reactions, injuries, and other conditions.

So, how does all of this relate to allergies? We mentioned earlier that an allergic reaction is the result of the body mistakenly identifying a usually harmless substance as dangerous. Everything that you eat, that you breathe in, or that your skin comes into contact with is evaluated by the immune system. It is constantly vigilant and on the lookout for trouble. Normally the immune response is accurate and it zeros in on truly harmful elements. However, in other cases, it misses the mark.

Some of the things that cause allergies are understandable, such as mold. Inhaling mold spores can have an extremely damaging long-term effect on the body. But something like tomatoes, plants and dust may seem more benign. However, regardless of how seemingly innocent most allergens are, if they have been tagged by the immune system as harmful, the body will be propelled into action each time an allergen is encountered. The resulting inflammatory immune system response accounts for most of the well-known symptoms associated with allergies.

Allergies are a very real concern to millions of people around the world. For those suffering from allergy-like symptoms, accurate diagnosis and treatment can do much to alleviate suffering and allow for a normal life. For some, that will mean avoiding known allergens or managing symptoms. For others, various modes of treatment carry the possibility of lessening or completely eradicating the allergic response.

In the coming lessons, you will be introduced to the most common allergens and explore techniques for their detection, management and in some cases- eradication.

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Course Lessons

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Lesson 1: Overview of Allergies

An allergy is the result of an abnormal reaction of the immune system to a particular item that comes into contact with your body. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 1 Video
  • Review Article: Allergies Health Center
  • Complete: Lesson 1 Exam

Lesson 2: Understanding Food Allergies

In this lesson, you will learn the science behind what causes allergic reactions to food, as well as how prevalent those reactions are. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 2 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 2 Exam

Lesson 3: Allergy Testing and Specific Food Allergies- Peanuts

In this lesson, you will learn about perhaps the most publicized allergy- peanuts 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 3 Video
  • Review 3 Articles: Peanut Allergy...The Shocking Facts; Peanut Allergy Research and Education; Peanut Free Foods
  • Complete: Lesson 3 Exam

Lesson 4: Food Allergies Part 2 (Tree Nuts and Soy)

In this lesson, you will learn about the related food groups of tree nuts and soy. 9 Total Points
  • Lesson 4 Video
  • Review Article: Tree Nut List
  • Complete: Lesson 4 Exam

Lesson 5- Food Allergies- Part 3 (Eggs and Dairy)

In this lesson, you will learn about two very common allergies inducing foods- eggs and dairy products 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 5 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Living with an egg allergy; Dairy Allergy
  • Complete: Lesson 5 Exam

Lesson 6: Food Allergies-Part 4 (Finned Fish and Shellfish)

In this lesson, you will learn the difference between finned fish and shellfish, who most often develops seafood allergies and how to properly identify and treat sensitivities to seafood. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 6 Video
  • Review Article: Shellfish allergy
  • Complete: Lesson 6 Exam

Lesson 7: Seasonal Allergies

In this lesson, you will learn about seasonal outdoor allergies and their causes, as well as the best treatment options for preventing and managing symptoms. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 7 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Relieve Allergies the Natural Way; The Best And Worst Food For Allergies
  • Complete: Lesson 7 Exam

Lesson 8: Dust Mites and Pet Dander

In this lesson, you will learn about additional, yet very common indoor allergens- dust mites and pet dander. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 8 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Managing allergies: house dust mites; Pet Allergies: Making It Work
  • Complete: Lesson 8 Exam

Lesson 9: Allergies to Insect Stings

In this lesson, you will learn about the three distinct reactions to insect stings and which require emergency treatment. 50 Total Points
  • Lesson 9 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Bee Types; Allergies to Insect Sting
  • Take Poll: What is your opinion of this course?
  • Take Survey: Program Evaluation Follow-up Survey (End of Course)
  • Complete: Lesson 9 Exam
  • Complete: The Final Exam
Total Course Points
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Learning Outcomes

By successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
  • Describe what allergies are and the effects they have on health.
  • Know allergy testing and specific food allergies.
  • Identify seasonal allergies and coping techniques.
  • Identify allergies relating to dust mites and pet dander
  • Know allergies to insect stings, and
  • Demonstrate mastery of lesson content at levels of 70% or higher.
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Additional Course Information

Online CEU Certificate
  • Document Your Lifelong Learning Achievements
  • Earn an Official Certificate Documenting Course Hours and CEUs
  • Verify Your Certificate with a Unique Serial Number Online
  • View and Share Your Certificate Online or Download/Print as PDF
  • Display Your Certificate on Your Resume and Promote Your Achievements Using Social Media
Document Your CEUs on Your Resume
Course Title: Understanding Allergies 101
Course Number: 8900223
Languages: English - United States, Canada and other English speaking countries
Course Type: General Education
CEU Value: 0.3 IACET CEUs (Continuing Education Units)
CE Accreditation: Universal Class, Inc. has been accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).
Grading Policy: Earn a final grade of 70% or higher to receive an online/downloadable CEU Certification documenting CEUs earned.
Assessment Method: Lesson assignments and review exams
Instructor: UniversalClass Staff Instructor
Syllabus: View Syllabus
Duration: Continuous: Enroll anytime!
Course Fee: $50.00 (no CEU Certification) || with Online CEU Certification: $75.00

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