The immune response begins when white blood cells engulf and destroy the allergen. As the allergen is destroyed, antibodies are created, specifically IgE antibodies. The IgE antibodies prepare the immune system for the next encounter with the same allergen. IgE antibodies attach themselves to mast cells. Mast cells are cells that can be found in the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, and skin. This process is called sensitization. If you have been sensitized to urushiol and again come in contact with the sap of poison ivy plants, the urushiol allergen will now be recognized by the antibodies on mast cells. In an attempt to fight off the invaders, mast cells release histamine, which when binding to histamine receptors on skin cells, result in inflammation.
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