What are Allergies?
Allergies are described as abnormal responses within the body to things or substances that are typically harmless. However, this incorrect response causes the immune system to react to the substance (known as allergens) as if it was harmful. The symptoms of allergies can make you feel miserable and rotten! It is a good idea for any allergy sufferer to get to know which allergens you are allergic to so that you can control the symptoms.
Allergies are extremely common and affect more than 20 percent of adults and children in the United States. According to the Allergy Report from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness. It usually develops during childhood or early adulthood. Most allergies are inherited and people are more likely to have a tendency to be allergic if there is a family history of allergies or asthma.
Sometimes, people with allergies may experience a severe reaction known as anaphylaxis. The signs of anaphylaxis may start with severe itching of the eyes or face and develop into more serious symptoms such as swelling of the lips, tongue and throat, abdominal pain, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, hives, and angiodema (hives in the throat). This type of reaction usually occurs within minutes after been exposed to the triggering allergen (such as a peanut). It is a rare, life-threatening emergency and medical attention is required immediately.
The most common allergens
Airborne particles: Airborne particles are the most common allergens, often also referred to as environmental allergens. These allergens include pollen from grass or trees, dust mites that live in house dust, mold spores found in damp areas, and animal dander from the skin and saliva of pets. Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, wheezing and coughing, congestion, and itchy watery eyes.
Foods: Certain foods such as milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts and seafood are some of the most common food allergies. Allergic reactions to these types of foods occur within minutes of eating and symptoms can be severe. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, hives, runny nose, vomiting, diarrhea, and swelling in the area around the mouth.
Insect bites or stings: The venom in insect bites or stings causes allergic reactions in people which result in pain, swelling, and redness around the affected area. Symptoms also include difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, throat, or mouth, wheezing or difficulty swallowing, hives that appear as a red, itchy rash that spreads to areas, restlessness and anxiety ; rapid pulse; and dizziness or a sharp drop in blood pressure. These types of allergies are very severe and may cause an anaphylactic reaction in some people.
Chemicals: Certain chemicals such as household cleaners, laundry detergents, cosmetics, pesticides, or dyes can also cause allergic reactions in some people. Common symptoms include skin rash hives, eye tearing and irritation, wheezing, and itching of the skin.
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Medicines: The most common medicines that can cause allergic reactions are antibiotics. Other medications such as over-the-counter medications can also cause allergic reactions.
The diagnosis of an allergy is based on your symptoms, medical history and a physical examination. Certain tests such as blood tests, skin tests or patch tests are performed to check for signs of an allergy.
Symptoms and signs
The most common symptoms and signs associated with allergies include:
* Runny nose
* Watery, tearing eyes
* Itchy eyes, ears, lips, throat and palate
* Sinus pain
* Shortness of breath
* Increase in secretions
What Causes Allergies?
Allergies occur when a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks the allergen as an invader and produces immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to combat these substances. These antibodies then cause certain cells in the body to release chemicals such as histamine into the bloodstream.
These chemicals affect your eyes, nose, throat, lungs, skin or gastrointestinal tract and produces allergy symptoms such as sneezing, itchy eyes and a runny nose. Every time that you are exposed to that same allergen, an allergic reaction will be triggered.
Help for Allergies
For the treatment of allergies to be effective, the individual has to be aware of the allergen or substance that is causing the allergy. There are various medications such as topical and oral antihistamines, corticosteroids, nasal congestants and mastocyte stabilizers that help reduce the symptoms of allergies.
People who experience severe allergy attacks often require a quick shot of epinephrine, a type of medication used to counteract an anaphylactic reaction. When these medications fail to achieve the desired results, immunotherapy or allergy desensitization may be used.
Certain herbal and homeopathic remedies have been found to be beneficial in the treatment and prevention of allergies. These remedies are not only much safer to use than the traditional antihistamine drugs but also gentler for the body. Herbs such as Urtica urens and Plantago lanceolata (also known as plantain) contain effective anti-inflammatory and astringent properties and have a long history of treating inflammation, allergies and respiratory complaints.
Quercitin is a highly effective herb that contains antioxidants and helps to boost the immune system and improve circulation while Euphrasia officinalis (Eyebright) maintains eye health and good vision. In addition, homeopathic ingredients such as Allium cepa and Ars. Iod helps to control allergy symptoms such as sneezing, wheezing chest, inflammation in the eyes and irritability.
Tips to cope with allergies
There are several ways to help you cope and deal with allergies, and these include:
* Avoid foods that trigger allergy symptoms and learn how to read food labels
* Keep your house free of dust and pet dander by vacuuming and dusting regularly with a damp cloth
* Avoid with areas with a high count of pollen such as gardens, grass, parks or fields
* Eat a healthy, balanced diet to boost your immune system
* Keep pets out of the house, especially from the bedroom and living room areas
* Monitor the weather, especially on those days when the pollen count is high
* Close windows when pollen season is at its peak
* Wash clothing and hair regularly because pollen can cling to it
* Use fragrance-free cosmetic and beauty products
* Choose hardwood or tiled floors instead of carpets and rugs – carpets and rugs tend to collect more dust
* Use protective covers for mattresses and pillows to shield against dust mites
* Wear close-fitting sunglasses to prevent pollen from blowing into your eyes
* Keep your home well-humidified
* Stop smoking and do not allow others to smoke in your home or presence