Though allergy is not a disease in itself, it can severely affect us if kept untreated. Suppose you want to know about allergies, allergy symptoms, different types of allergies, including seasonal allergies, how allergy occurs, diagnosis and tests of allergies, allergy medicines, and treatments. In that case, you should go through this article.
What is an Allergy?
An allergy is also known as allergic disease, which is a condition caused by hypersensitivity of the immune system to otherwise harmless substances in the environment. An allergy occurs when a person overreacts to substances harmless to most people in the environment.
A substance that can cause an allergic reaction is an allergen. Many allergens are everyday substances that are otherwise harmless to most people. However, anything can be an allergen if the immune system reacts to it adversely.
The allergens or substances are mainly got from contacts of pets, pollen, dust mites, insects, ticks, foods, molds, and some medications. Atopy, an allergic reaction that becomes apparent in a sensitized person only minutes after contact, is the genetic tendency to create allergic diseases.
What Are The Most Common Allergies?
Allergies are among the fastest-growing chronic diseases, particularly most common in children and adolescents, including allergies to food, drugs, insects, and pets.
If you want to know the most common allergic diseases, allergic rhinitis (nasal allergies), asthma, conjunctivitis (eye allergies), urticaria (hives), and food allergies are mentionable.
There are some seasonal allergies. For instance, hay fever symptoms can appear between April and May, as the tree and grass pollen count in the air is higher in this season.
Following are the most common allergies and some practical advice to help you avoid the most common allergens.
Allergies In Children
Numerous allergic diseases occur during childhood, with allergic rhinitis, asthma, eczema, and food allergy. A big UK-based survey discloses a result that 20% of children had asthma in the previous year, 18% had allergic rhino conjunctivitis (hay fever), and 16% were found to have eczema.
This represents a massive growth in the wideness of allergy in children compared with similar studies in the 1970s where wideness rates were 3 times lower. Among these children, 47% carried at least two co-existing conditions like asthma and eczema.
Allergies In Adults
The allergy, asthma can cause swelling and inflammation inside the airways of the lungs. People with asthma have this inflammation and swelling to a greater or smaller degree all the time. This inflammation there makes it harder to breathe. Any irritating substance can cause their airways to narrow.
- Atopic Eczema (Dermatitis)
Eczema is a type of allergy to itchy skin rashes. There are many types of eczema. Dermatitis is one of them caused by external factors. Atopic eczema is often introduced as “infantile” of childhood eczema as it usually develops in childhood.
Although prescription drugs are prepared through a rigid process of testing to ensure safety, a small part of individuals can develop side effects. Doctors also call side effects “adverse drug reactions.” However, an abnormal reaction of the immune system to certain medications may produce a drug allergy. A drug allergy may cause serious reactions, like a life-threatening condition affecting multiple body systems (anaphylaxis).
Food Allergies and Food Intolerance
If some people react to food, they may have a Food Hypersensitivity (FHS). FHS reactions associated with the immune system are called food allergies (FA). All other reactions are assorted as food intolerances (FI), a less severe condition related to digestive problems.
Any food item can expose an allergic reaction. But some types of food items are very famous for causing allergies comprising fish, eggs, milk, shellfish, peanuts, soy, and tree nuts. Read more.
Rhinitis means the inflammation of the nose lining, which is explained clinically as symptoms of runny nose, itching, sneezing, and nasal blockage (congestion). Rhinitis also may be a seasonal allergy or all year round. Allergy to house dust, mites, cats, dogs, and molds are examples of rhinitis, the infections of which may be acute or chronic.
Skin allergies can have a significant impact on human work and family life. Anything can cause an allergic reaction when it comes in contact with the skin. Certain food items and medications or illnesses can also create skin allergies. Some of the common triggers of skin allergies are pollen, sunlight, laundry detergent, soap, and certain chemicals.
Besides, some other allergies are found, such as Dust Allergies, Pet Allergies, Mold Allergies, and Latex Allergies.
What Causes Allergies?
Allergies take place with the overreactions of your immune system to an unknown substance like pollen, pet dander, bee venom, or food that causes no reaction in most people.
An allergy begins to occur through your immune system overreacting and mistaking a normally harmless substance for a dangerous invader.
The immune system then produces antibodies for that specific allergen. If you have any hypersensitivity to the allergen, these antibodies release several chemicals like histamine that cause allergy symptoms.
The most common types of allergens are-
- Animal products, including pet dander, dust mite, and cockroaches.
- Drugs, including penicillin and sulfa.
- Foods, including wheat, nuts, tree nuts, milk, soy, fish, shellfish, and eggs.
- Insect stings, including bees, wasps, and mosquitoes.
- Airborne allergens like pollen, animal dander, dust mites, and mold.
- Medications, particularly penicillin or penicillin-based antibiotics
- Plants, together with resin, and trees, pollen from grass, and weeds from plants- poison ivy and poison oak.
- Other allergens, like latex, metals like nickel, or other substances you touch, can cause allergic skin reactions.
How Does an Allergic Reaction Occur?
Allergic reactions are responses to allergens coming in contact with the skin, eyes, nose, respiratory tract, and gastrointestinal tract. They can be breathed into the lungs, injected, or swallowed.
Allergic reactions are very common. For instance, the immune response that causes an allergic reaction is similar to the response causing hay fever. Most reactions take place shortly after coming in contact with an allergen.
The allergic reaction starts when you come into contact with a substance that you inhale, swallow, or get on your skin. Your immune system controls your body to create antibodies Immunoglobulin E (IgE), a protein, which travels to cells and releases chemicals and causes an allergic reaction, grasping the allergen.
Just at that time, histamine and other chemicals get released into the blood and cause symptoms in the nose, lungs, sinuses, throat, ears, the lining of the stomach, or on the skin. Each type of IgE has a particular “radar” for each type of substance or allergen.
That’s why some people seem to be allergic only to cockroaches as they have the IgE antibodies to cockroaches only, while others have allergic reactions to many different substances because of their many more types of IgE antibodies.
Symptoms of Allergy
Your allergy symptoms depend on how you’re manifested through the air, your skin, food, an insect sting, or some other allergens.
Your airways, sinuses, nasal passages, skin, and digestive system can be negatively affected by allergy symptoms. Allergic reactions can be from mild to severe. In some serious cases, allergies are found to cause a life-threatening reaction, which is known as anaphylaxis. Below is the exposure of different allergy symptoms:
Hay Fever Also Called Allergic Rhinitis
- Runny, stuffy nose
- Itching of the roof of the mouth, the eyes, or nose
- Watery, red, or swollen eyes (conjunctivitis)
- Tingling in the mouth
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, face, or throat
Insect Sting Allergy
- A big area of swelling (edema) at the sting site
- Cough, chest tightness, wheezing, or shortness of breath
- Itching or hives all over the body
- Facial swelling
- Itchy skin
An allergic skin condition which is also called eczema, can cause the skin to-
- Flake or peel
Some types of allergies can trigger a severe reaction, anaphylaxis- a life-threatening medical emergency. It can make you go into shock. Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis are-
- Loss of consciousness
- Severe shortness of breath
- Skin rash
- A drop in blood pressure
- A rapid, weak pulse
- Nausea and vomiting
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Itchy, runny nose
- Feeling tired or ill
Common symptoms of a skin allergy may be the direct result of exposure or contact with an allergen. For instance, eating a food that you’re allergic to can cause several symptoms. You may feel tingling in your mouth and throat. You may also have a rash.
Contact dermatitis is the direct result of your skin coming into contact with an allergen. You touching something you’re allergic to, such as cleaning a product or plant, can make it happen.
Types and symptoms of skin allergies include:
- Rashes: Areas of skin are red, or swollen, irritated, and can be painful or itchy.
- Eczema: Patches of skin get inflamed happening to itch and bleed.
- Contact dermatitis: Red, itchy patches of skin are found to develop just after contact with an allergen.
- Sore throat: The pharynx or throat is felt irritated or inflamed.
- Hives: Red, itchy, and raised welts of different sizes and shapes are seen to develop on the surface of the skin.
- Swollen eyes: Eyes may turn watery or itchy and look “puffy.”
- Itching: Irritation or inflammation in the skin.
- Burning: Discomfort and stinging sensations on the skin by skin inflammation.
Stomach Cramps, Diarrhea, and Vomiting Can Also Be Caused By Food Allergies
Children may experience other, more severe symptoms too, which include:
- Swelling of their tongue or face
- A tingling sensation in the mouth
In the reaction of a serious allergic condition, children can even lose consciousness. If you suspect that your child has an allergy, make an appointment with a doctor to have a prescription for allergy medicines.
How Are Allergies Diagnosed and Tested?
The doctor can diagnose allergies in several ways, such as checking out the symptoms, contacted allergen, a blood test, a skin test, or an elimination diet.
Firstly, the doctor may ask about your symptoms and may perform a physical exam. The doctor may ask you some questions about what you have eaten or any substances you may have come in contact with.
Lastly, a blood test and skin test can confirm or diagnose which allergens you have
An accurate diagnosis can provide effective management of allergic diseases. Proper allergy testing can help confirm or remove allergies. Correct diagnosis, counseling, and following advice based on the right allergy test results reduces the incidence of symptoms and need for medications and increases the quality of life thereby.
For assessing the presence of allergen-specific IgE antibodies, two different test methods can be used: a skin prick test or an allergy blood test. Both methods are suggested, and their diagnostic values are similar.
Allergy Blood Test
Your doctor may prescribe a blood test. To identify the presence of allergy-causing antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE), a blood test is essential. Immunoglobulin E (IgE) are cells that react to allergens.
An allergy blood test can be ordered by a licensed health care provider- an allergy specialist or a general practitioner. It is quick and simple. A blood test can be done disregarding age, medication, skin condition, disease activity, symptoms, and pregnancy.
Adults and children of any age can be given an allergy blood test. Only one needle stick for allergy blood testing is more effective than several skin pricks for very young children and babies.
An allergy blood test can be done in most laboratories. A blood sample of the patient is sent to a laboratory for analysis first, and then the results of the test are sent back a few days later. Many allergens can be found out with a single blood sample. Allergy blood tests are very safe since the person is not susceptible to any allergens during the testing procedure.
The other name of skin testing is “puncture testing” and “prick testing” because of the series of tiny punctures or pricks made into the patient’s skin. If your doctor refers you to an allergist for testing and treatment, the allergist commonly carries out a skin test.
While testing, your skin is pricked or scratched with a plastic or metal device like a small needle containing probable allergens. The allergens are pushed “intradermally” into the skin of patients at times with a syringe and needle. The common areas for testing are the inside forearm and the back.
Then the reaction of your skin is documented. Your skin will turn red and inflamed if you’ve any hypersensitivity to a certain substance.
More different tests may be required to diagnose all your potential allergies. Click here for better ideas on how allergy testing works.
If the patient is allergic to the allergens, an inflammatory reaction will be seen within 30 minutes. This reaction range encompasses from slight reddening of the skin to a full-blown hive in more sensitive patients.
Elimination of Certain Diet
An elimination diet may help your doctor identify which foods are causing an allergic reaction. It involves removing certain foods from your diet for a short time and later adding them again. Your reactions can help find out which foods cause problems.
What are the Medication and Treatments of Allergy?
Several medications may be applied to prevent allergic mediators or the cells’ activation and degranulation processes. These enlist antihistamines, epinephrine (adrenaline), glucocorticoids, mast cell stabilizers, and anti leukotriene agents are common treatments of allergic diseases. Some other commonly used medications for allergy treatments are Anticholinergics, decongestants, and other compounds that impair eosinophil chemotaxis. Although rare, the severity of anaphylaxis often needs epinephrine injection. A device known as an epinephrine autoinjector may be used where medical care is not easy and available.
Different varieties of allergy medications are available in the market. Some are targeted at some particular allergies, while others are more generalized to treat many different kinds of allergies.
Allergy medications include:
• Antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
• Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
• Loratadine (Claritin)
• Decongestants (Afrin, Suphedrine PE, Sudafed)
• Cromolyn sodium (Gastrocrom)
• Leukotriene modifiers (Singulair, Zyflo)
To avoid feeling tired, taking an antihistamine can be your best bet. These medications temporarily reduce your allergy symptoms by reducing swelling.
To cut out exposition to allergens is the only way to completely alleviate allergy symptoms. You should keep in mind that many antihistamines cause fatigue. So, when you need to remain awake during the day, an antihistamine labeled as “nondrowsy” such as Claritin is the best to take.
On the other hand, if you have trouble sleeping at night, taking an antihistamine that causes drowsiness may help. Benadryl is one antihistamine that causes drowsiness.
Nasal sprays like Flonase can also help you in treating your allergy symptoms. These sprays usually are not supposed to cause any drowsiness. But try to be sure always by checking the label on your prescription.
Natural Remedies For Allergies
Many different natural remedies and supplements are marketed for treatments and even to prevent allergies. You should consult your doctor before applying them because some natural treatments may contain other allergens that may make your symptoms worse.
For instance, flowers and plants that some dried teas use might cause you serious sneezing. The same thing is true for essential oils. Some people use essential oils to relieve common symptoms of allergies, but these oils still contain ingredients to cause allergies.
However, each type of allergy has a host of natural remedies to help speed up recovery. There are also natural options for children’s allergies.
Allergy may create different chronic conditions for your health. Try to control or prevent allergies to enjoy a comfortable life. Follow a proper series of tests and treatments and consult a specialist if needed.