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All About Allergies

Updated on March 13, 2016

An allergy is an abnormal immune response, wherein substances known as allergens trigger one of four hypersensitivity responses in an individual. When a person who is allergic to a substance encounters the allergen, the body responds by releasing chemicals that cause allergy symptoms. Genetics play a major role in predisposing an individual to allergic reactions. However, other factors such as environmental exposure, diseases and lifestyle may also contribute.

Common allergic reactions include atopic dermatitis, asthma, allergic rhinitis, eczema, hives, hay fever or allergic rhinitis, food allergies, and anaphylactic reaction to insect stings. Readily recognizable symptoms include itchiness, redness of the skin, hives, swelling, runny nose, sneezing, and eye itchiness and watering. More severe symptoms include difficulty of breathing, nausea, vomiting, stomachache, hypotension and shock.

Allergic reactions may vary from typically harmless episodes to life-threatening ones. Milder forms of allergies, such as hay fever or allergic rhinitis are very prevalent. Airborne allergens such as dust and pollen usually trigger the allergic symptoms, which include nasal itching, sneezing, itching and redness of the eyes. Allergic reactions play a major role in an asthmatic attack. In a person with asthma, inhalation of allergens or ingestion of food allergens cause the narrowing of the airways and increased production of mucus in the lungs, leading to difficulty of breathing, coughing and wheezing. Food allergies on the other hand may manifest as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and itching of the skin.

Extreme allergic reactions can involve several systems of the body and produce more severe symptoms. An insect sting or an intake of certain medication may produce anaphylaxis – an acute, multi-system, severe type I hypersensitivity reaction. Respiratory symptoms include difficulty of breathing, wheezing and cyanosis. Abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting are gastrointestinal symptoms. When the allergic reaction is severe, some individuals experience hypotension or cardiovascular shock. A circulatory compromise may lead to alteration of consciousness and feeling of anxiety.

The diagnosis of an allergy can usually be made with careful examination of the patient and the history of symptoms. However, confirmatory tests may be required in some cases. Skin testing and some blood examinations may be performed for certain individuals in whom the allergen must be identified.

Avoidance of allergic triggers is the best way of preventing allergic reactions. However, in people who have not identified their allergen or in whom avoidance is not always possible, various medications are readily available to treat allergic symptoms. Other modes of treatment include immunotherapy, and various natural and alternative therapies.

Atopic individuals are more suceptible to allergies. Sensitive people are not able to get rid of there allergies but there are ways to eliminate symptoms without medication.

  1. In atopic individuals allergens stimulate antibodies which in turn lead to the release of histamine. The first step is identifying the allergen responsible for your allergy. Common allergens include chemicals and dust mites.
  2. Dermatologists are doctors that specialize in skin conditions including allergies. They can test common allergies to see which ones you are suceptible to.
  3. Once you have identified allergens you can make attempts to remove or reduce these from your environment.

Make Your Allergies Go Away

Talk to your doctor about the long term side affects of taking medicine for allergies. Try and find ways to minimize contact with allergens. Try to use skin care products that have been allergy tested. Be cautious about washing detergents that are used in the home, because they are common triggers for dermatitis.


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