What Is An Allergy?

 

An allergy occurs when your immune system responds to some food or foreign substances that don’t cause repercussions to other people.  

 

A substance that causes an allergy is called allergen. It can be present in the foods, beverages, or the environment in which you live. 

 

Some of the most common allergens are:

 

  • Pollen grains

 

  • Pet dander

 

  • Dust mites

 

  • Insect stings

 

  • Certain food or medications

 

The immune system is responsible for producing antibodies and fighting several infections. When you have an allergy, your immune system creates antibodies that recognize some particular allergen as harmful and tries to destroy it. 

 

Some Important Facts On Allergies

 

Every year over 50 million citizens of America experience some of the other kinds of allergies.

In the United States Of America, it is the 6th leading cause of chronic health conditions. 

The annual expenditure on allergies goes beyond $18 billion.

The expense of food allergies comes nearly $25 billion every year.

Females are at an elevated risk for food allergies as compared to males. 

 

Symptoms

 

The symptoms of your allergy depend on the substance causing it. The severity of the symptoms also varies from person to person, ranging from mild to severe. 

 

In severe instances, allergies can cause a life-threatening condition called Anaphylaxis. 

 

Let us discuss some of the common symptoms of various allergies:

 

 

  • Food Allergy

 

 

  • Hives

 

  • Tingling in the mouth

 

  • Breathing trouble

 

  • Dizziness

 

  • Abdominal pain

 

  • Nausea. Vomiting or diarrhea

  • Swelling of face, lips, throat, tongue or other body parts

 

  • Anaphylaxis

 

 

  • Hay Fever

 

 

  • Runny, stuffy nose

 

  • Sneezing

 

  • Itching of the eyes, nose, etc. Red, watery or swollen eyes

 

 

  • Drug Allergy

 

 

  • Rash

 

  • Itchy skin

 

  • Hives

 

  • Wheezing

 

  • Facial swelling

 

  • Anaphylaxis

 

 

  • Insect-sting Allergy

 

 

  • Nausea or vomiting

 

  • Anaphylaxis

 

  • Dizziness

 

  • Breathing trouble

 

  • Difficulty in swallowing

 

  • Swelling at the sting site

 

  • Cough

 

  • Chest firmness

 

 

  • Atopic dermatitis

 

 

  • Dryness of skin

 

  • Cracked, scaly skin

 

  • Itching, getting worse especially at night

 

  • Small, fluid-filled bumps 

 

  • Swollen skin resulting from scratching

 

  • Patches on different parts of the body, including hands, legs, neck, face, chest, eyelids, etc.

 

 

  • Anaphylaxis

 

 

  • Shortness of breath, wheezing or breathing trouble

 

  • Dizziness

 

  • Swelling of lips, throat or tongue

 

  • Skin rashes

 

  • Itchiness and hives all over the body

 

  • Stomach ache

 

  • Diarrhea

 

  • Vomiting

 

  • Rapid pulse

 

  • Shock with a sudden drop of blood pressure

 

Causes

 

An allergy begins when your immune system identifies harmless foreign particles as dangerous. It then creates antibodies to protect your body from that allergen. 

 

The next time when you come in contact with the allergen, several immune system chemicals (like histamine)are released from the body. As a result of which you will experience some allergy-related symptoms. 

 

Below is the list of most prevalent allergy triggers:

 

Certain Foods (Wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, milk, eggs, etc.)

 

Animal Products (pet dander, cockroaches, dust mite waste)

 

Plants (pollen from trees, weeds or grass. And resins from plants such as poison oak and poison ivy)

 

Medications (specifically penicillin or penicillin-related antibiotics)

 

Insect stings (from a wasp or bee)

 

Latex or other tangible substances (which gives rise to specific skin allergies)

 

Risk factors For Allergies

 

Age: Some allergies are more common in a specific age group. For example, food allergy usually affects infants and toddlers. 

 

Family History: If you have someone in your family with some allergies, you are at a high risk of getting one too. 

 

Asthma: Having asthma also increases the risk of allergies.

 

Other allergies: Having a different allergy raises the chance for other allergies as well. 

 

Birth: Children who take delivery by cesarean section are susceptible to allergies.

 

Diagnosis

 

The doctor asks the following questions in the first place:

 

  • The symptoms you are experiencing

 

  • When and how often they occur

 

  • The probable cause of your symptoms

 

  • If anyone in your family has an allergy

 

Then the doctor will order the following tests to detect the allergen responsible for your symptoms:

 

 

  • Blood Test

 

 

A blood test is done to identify the level of allergy-causing antibodies(Immunoglobulin E – IgE) in your bloodstream. This blood test is called ImmunoCAP testing or Radioallergosorbent inspection (RAST). 

 

 

  • Patch Test

 

 

If you are having skin irritation, the doctor shall recommend a patch test to detect the cause. It can identify delayed allergic reactions, which can take several days to evolve. 

 

No needles are used in the test. Instead, possible allergens are applied to the patches that attach to the skin of the patient. After 48 hours, the doctor removes all the patches. Irritated skin on a patch site indicates that the person is allergic to that particular allergen.

 

 

  • Skin Prick Test

 

 

It is also called a scratch or puncture test. It monitors for immediate allergic responses to over 40 substances at the same time. The materials include dust mites, pet dander, pollen, mold, food, etc. 

 

In this test, the doctor makes use of needles that hardly will penetrate your skin. You won’t bleed; only a small discomfort will be experienced. 

 

Treatment

 

Mild allergies are treatable by home remedies or with OTC medication. Various treatment alternatives are also available that you can take to get relieved from your symptoms. They are:

 

Antihistamines: It can treat almost every type of allergies regardless of the substance or allergen, causing it. 

 

It works by reducing the production of histamine in the body. It relieves some of the symptoms like watery eyes, sneezing, skin reaction, etc. 

 

Antihistamines are available in the following different forms:

 

  • Oral pills

 

  • Eye drops

 

  • Nasal sprays

 

  • Liquids

 

  • Dissolvable pills

 

Some antihistamines like the following can cause drowsiness:

 

  • Chlorpheniramine

 

  • Diphenhydramine

 

Following causes less drowsiness as compared to the above drugs:

  • Cetirizine
  • Desloratadine
  • Fexofenadine
  • Levocetirizine
  • Loratadine

Not only these medications help treat allergies, but they also can help prevent them. 

 

Many people who have a pet at home or are often exposed to some environmental pollutants or chemicals take antihistamines even before getting affected with an allergy. 

 

Anti-inflammatory medications: NSAIDs or Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs can help reduce pain, cramping, or swelling stemming from allergies. 

 

Nasal Decongestants: A person suffering from allergies may have nasal congestion, which significantly affects sleep, performance, and overall quality of life.  

 

Antihistamines prevent most symptoms of allergies. But if you need to relieve a congested nose or sinus pressure, extra medications are required. 

 

Decongestants can cause headache, irritability, insomnia, high blood pressure, etc. 

 

Who Should Not Take Decongestants?

 

People with the following conditions should not take it:

 

  • Cardiovascular disease

 

  • High blood pressure

 

  • Hyperthyroidism

 

  • Glaucoma

 

Avoid The Allergens: You may feel some allergic reaction every time you exposed to some substance. Identify the cause of your symptoms and avoid exposure to them. 

 

If avoiding exposure to the allergen is not possible, you can take decongestants or antihistamines to ease the condition. 

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Sources:

 

https://www.consumerreports.org/

https://www.healthline.com/

https://www.medicinenet.com/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/

https://www.aafa.org/

https://www.webmd.com/