Allergies

1 What are Allergies?

Allergies are a chronic condition characterized by an exaggerated immune response to common substances like pollen and food.

The allergens that elicit a response may not cause any reaction in other people. In people with allergies, the body produces antibodies that consider the allergen as harmful and trigger a reaction.

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When exposed to an allergen, the immune system may react through inflammation of the skin, sinuses, or digestive system.

Symptoms of allergies may range from mild to severe. Anaphylaxis is a severe form of an allergic reaction and is often a medical emergency.

There is no complete cure for allergies, but treatments help to alleviate the symptoms.

allergies

2 Symptoms

Symptoms of allergies are usually seen in the lungs, nose, throat, sinuses, ear, stomach, or on the skin.

The symptoms range from mild to a potentially life-threatening anaphylactic reaction. Allergic rhinitis is a common symptom of allergies.

It is mainly characterized by sneezing, itching in the nose and eyes, runny nose, and watering eyes.

Types of allergies

Food allergy may trigger skin rashes, tingling in the mouth and swelling of the lips and tongue.

Insect bites may produce swelling at the site of the bite, or itching all over the body. In some people, this may cause wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing.

Allergies to certain medications also result in skin rashes, wheezing, itching, and swelling of the face.

Severe reaction

A severe reaction to an allergen is known as anaphylaxis.

This is characterized by low blood pressure, difficulty breathing, skin rashes, weak pulse, loss of consciousness, nausea and vomiting.

Anaphylaxis may be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention.

3 Causes

Allergies can be caused by a number of factors.

The immune system of the person with allergies produce antibodies targeted against certain substances that are normally harmless, like dust mites, pollen, dust, dander, and food.

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When exposed to the allergen, the immune system produces histamines that result in allergy symptoms.

Some of the common triggers include:

  • Pollen
  • Dander
  • Certain foods like peanuts, wheat, soy, eggs, and milk
  • Insect bites
  • Certain medications like antibiotics
  • Latex

4 Making a Diagnosis

History of symptoms and a physical examination help in the diagnosis of allergies.

A skin prick test and blood test are commonly used to determine the cause of the allergic reaction.

In a skin test, small amounts of the suspected allergen or a protein part of the allergen is exposed to the skin. An allergic reaction to the substance result in the formation of hives.

The blood level of antibodies that launch an allergic reaction also help to diagnose the allergy towards a specific substance.

Sensitivity in the blood to the specific allergen is tested for confirmation.

Other conditions that cause similar symptoms should be ruled out before definitive diagnosis of the allergy.

5 Treatment

Identifying and avoiding the specific allergens that elicit an exaggerated immune response is the first step in the treatment of allergies.

Allergy medications including nasal sprays and eye drops help to reduce the symptoms.

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Allergen immunotherapy is a method suggested for severe forms of allergies and for those that do not respond to conventional medications.

With this method, shots of the allergen's extract are administered for few years.

For severe forms of allergic reactions, emergency epinephrine is given to control the symptoms.

6 Prevention

Knowing the trigger for an allergic reaction and avoiding exposure to the allergen is important in preventing allergies.

Having a journal to note down the time and intensity of allergic reactions is helpful in identifying the allergen.

People with serious allergic reactions should have a medical alert bracelet that will help in providing emergency medical attention during an allergic reaction.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Arsenicum album, arsenicum lodatum, arundo, dulcamara, gelsemium, kali lodatum, and Natrum mur are commonly used as homeopathy remedies to relieve the symptoms of allergy.

Quercetin helps to prevent the release of histamines that cause allergic symptoms.

Stinging nettle and butterbur are also suggested for controlling allergic reactions.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with allergies.

Home treatment can help to control allergies.

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Reducing exposure to allergens like dust mites and pet dander help to prevent allergic reaction.

Washing the sources of allergens like soft toys and maintaining low humidity helps to control allergies.

Using ventilators and dehumidifiers reduce moisture and also prevent allergies.

9 Risks and Complications

Anaphylaxis is a serious complication associated with allergies.

It is most commonly seen with food allergy, certain medications, and insect stings.

Asthma, atopic dermatitis, and sinusitis also develop as complications of allergies.

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