Allergies and allergic reactions are estimated to affect over fifty million Americans. Many of these hypersensitive reactions, such as mild seasonal hay fever can be handled with over-the-counter drugs or with no treatment at all. On the other hand, some allergies can have a big effect on your life and in some cases, even become life threatening. If this is the case, you should see a doctor for a complete review and allergy testing.
Why do Allergic Reactions Happen
All types of allergic reactions occur because of the immune system over reacting to normally harmless substances. Reacting to contact or ingestion, the body releases antibodies that in turn causes the release of histamine, prostaglandins and several other compounds that produce the allergy symptoms.
Some of the reactions your body might experience are nasal stuffiness, discharge, sneezing and nasal itching. Sometimes itching in ears or roof of the mouth accompanies the other symptoms.
The eyes can be affected with conjunctivitis or red, itchy, and watery eyes. Skin can be red, itchy, and dry, hives or itchy welts can appear on the skin as well. Asthma is a common form of allergic reaction, which causes shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing.
Types of Allergic Reactions
There are numerous substances that cause allergic reactions, but the most common allergens or triggers include things we encounter regularly.
- Pollen – Very difficult to avoid if you spend a lot of time outdoors
- Mold Spores – These can be anywhere, either inside or out. They are coomon in houses where black mold is present
- Household dust and dust mites – Common, even in the cleanest of homes.
- Animal dander – Many folks have pets but have little idea of the effect they can have on somebody with allergies. .
- Industrial chemicals - These are very common in household cleaners.
- Foods - Typically dairy based products such as milk and cream, eggs, peanuts, shellfish and several other foods. Some food allergies, such as a peanut allergy, is often life threatening.
- Bird Feathers – If you share your home with a bird, their feathers can cause allergic reactions.
- Insect stings - Some insect stings, such as that from a bee, can sometimes be fatal; especially if that person has an allergic reaction to bee stings.
Anybody may be affected by allergic reactions, any race, age, gender, or social status. Allergies seem to be most common in youngsters but an adult can suffer an allergic reaction even after years of remission. Allergies are sometime hereditary although it is not yet fully understood why that happens. Allergies can develop gradually over a period and can be caused by hormonal changes, stress, perfume, smoking, and other substances in the environment.
How are Allergic Reactions Diagnosed and Treated
You can discover what allergens you have a reaction to in one of two ways. The first is to have a blood test that measures the antibodies to specific allergens; the other is the skin patch test method. Several well-known allergens are diluted and either injected into the skin or a small amount place under the skin by a puncture or scratch. If a welt appears or a red area on the skin it might mean the patient is allergic to that allergen.
Treatments for allergies will vary and are determined on your age, overall health, and medical history. Consideration will be given when deciding therapy on how bad the disease is, your tolerance of medications, and your preferences. Occasionally a person may only need to change their lifestyle and be sure, their home is dust and mold free.
For some it may mean a change of diet, especially if their allergies are food related. Several different food allergies are common. Reactions can be avoided by staying away from the ones they are sensitive to. For those who are lactose intolerant, many over-the-counter remedies will allow you to cope with lactose products. You can enjoy an ice-cream cone without worry.
A peanut allergy can be especially harmful and all items with peanut or peanut oil should be avoided. Most food manufacturers now print on their packaging if the item is prepared in the same factory where peanut products have been used. This is a potentially life threatening allergy. Always check packaging of all foods to be sure there will not be a trace of peanut or peanut oil in the product.
Allergic reactions are annoying but controllable if you discover what you are allergic to, and avoid those allergens.