Allergies | Allergies and Symptoms | Allergies Treatment and Prevention
Allergy has risen dramatically in recent years. The siren is beginning to sound in many countries across the world. Indeed, allergy is one of the chronic diseases most frequently suffered by infants and children in industrialised countries, where one out of every three or four children is affected.
On the global scene, it is estimated that asthma, a form of airway allergy, affects as many as 300 million people with another 100 million expected in 2025.
Allergy seldom kills or maims. Life does go on for allergy sufferers, but unless you have an allergy yourself or live with someone who has it, you will never fully understand the impact of allergy on the quality of life. The physical suffering, the mental torment, the emotional struggles, the financial strain and the endless limitations in many aspects of life, ranging from food to sports or vacation to vocation. In a nutshell, allergy rarely kills but often steals your zest for life.
As 60% of all allergies appear during the first year of life, it is only logical for allergy prevention to be focused on infants and young children. In fact, it is estimated that 35% of children are affected by allergy.
The most common manifestations of allergy in children are food allergy, atopic dermatitis, asthma and allergic rhinitis/conjunctivitis.
As if the misery of one form of allergy, say dermatitis, is not enough, allergies may come in a series called the “allergy march”. Leading this march is atopic dermatitis which is often accompanied by food allergy. A large proportion of children with atopic dermatitis then progress to rhinitis or asthma later in life. Thus, the development of allergic diseases can be life-long.
Up till now, there is still no cure for allergy and prevention remains the only way to stop the allergy march. But before we can put the brakes on allergy, we must know what drives it.
Allergies in Children
Allergies are becoming more and more common in children. For example, allergic rhinitis is extremely common in children, and is far more than just a runny nose. Allergies of all kinds can have a major effect on a child’s quality of life, including effects on mood and behavior, activities such as school and sports, as even effects on sleep. Learn about ways that allergies have affected children’s lives, as well as how allergy treatments have improved these children’s lives.
What Are Allergies?
Allergies are abnormal immune system reactions to things that are typically harmless to most people. When you’re allergic to something, your immune system mistakenly believes that this substance is harmful to your body. (Substances that cause allergic reactions, such as certain foods, dust, plant pollen, or medicines, are known as allergens.)
In an attempt to protect the body, the immune system produces IgE antibodies to that allergen. Those antibodies then cause certain cells in the body to release chemicals into the bloodstream, one of which is histamine (pronounced: his-tuh-meen).
The histamine then acts on the eyes, nose, throat, lungs, skin, or gastrointestinal tract and causes the symptoms of the allergic reaction. Future exposure to that same allergen will trigger this antibody response again. This means that every time you come into contact with that allergen, you’ll have an allergic reaction.
Allergic reactions can be mild, like a runny nose, or they can be severe, like difficulty breathing. An asthma attack, for example, is often an allergic reaction to something that is breathed into the lungs by a person who is susceptible.
Some types of allergies produce multiple symptoms, and in rare cases, an allergic reaction can become very severe — this severe reaction is called anaphylaxis (pronounced: an-uh-fuh-lak-sis). Signs of anaphylaxis include difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat or other parts of the body, and dizziness or loss of consciousness.
Anaphylaxis usually occurs minutes after exposure to a triggering substance, such as a peanut, but some reactions might be delayed by as long as 4 hours. Luckily, anaphylactic reactions don’t occur often and can be treated successfully if proper medical procedures are followed.
Allergies Signs and Symptoms
Allergies, you know these are starting up again if you experience swelling in parts of your body. This is called local or systemic inflammatory response, caused by the presence of allergens. For instance, if your allergies affect you in the nose, you will experience swelling of the nasal mucosa (allergic rhinitis). During this condition, you will probably find yourself performing the “nasal salute” more than necessary as itching of your nose will induce you to wipe your nose in an upward direction.
On the other hand, if the allergies hit you in the eyes, redness and itching of the conjunctiva often follows. Other common signs of allergies are wheezing and dyspnoea, bronchoconstriction, and sometimes outright attacks of asthma. You may also experience various rashes, such as eczema, hives, and contact dermatitis.
Systemic allergic responses are more serious compared to local symptoms. Depending on the severity of your response, allergies can cause cutaenous reactions, bronchoconstriction, edema, hypotension, coma, and even death.
Hay fever is actually one example of minor allergies caused by airborne pollen. But aside from environmental factors, allergies may also be triggered by medications.
Curbing food allergy
FOOD allergy is not a condition that makes people sit up and take notice. In fact, it may even lose out (in terms of the amount of attention paid to it) to minor ailments like the common cold. But if we know the consequences of food allergy, some of which are immediate while others may surface only in later life, we will not view it as trivial. Let’s check out some facts about food allergy.
There are many types of itchy skin allergies and rashes. However, not all rashes that itch are related to skin allergies. The following are the most common types of allergic skin rashes.
Itching Without a Rash
It is a relatively common problem for people to have itching without a rash being present. The medical term for itching is pruritus, and this symptoms can represent a skin problem, or even an internal disease within the body.
When the itching is limited to a certain area of the body, the most likely reason is a disease process limited to the skin. The area of the body that itches often gives a big clue as to the cause of the itching.
Pruritus the involves the entire body may still represent a disease of the skin, or may be caused by metabolic problems such as thyroid disease or iron deficiency. Many medications can cause itching, particularly pain medications like codeine and morphine.
Learn more about itching and pruritus, how to determine the cause, and the treatments available.
Allergy testing measures how a person reacts to specific allergens, such as tree pollen, pet dander, foods, medications or molds. A “positive” allergy test means that a person has a specific allergic antibody to the substance tested. This often means that the person is allergic to the substance, meaning that the person will experience symptoms when exposed to the allergen.
However, a positive allergy test does not necessarily mean that the person is indeed allergic to the substance. A person may have a positive allergy test to dog dander, for example, but experience no symptoms with exposure to dogs. In addition, a person may have multiple positive food allergy tests, but be able to eat these foods without any bad reactions.
Therefore, an allergist is needed to perform and interpret allergy tests based on the person’s symptoms.
There are only two types of allergy testing considered to be valid: Skin testing (prick/puncture and intradermal) and RAST (radioallergosorbent test). Other tests for allergies may be performed in research settings (such as placing small amounts of allergen in the eye, nose or lungs to measure an allergic response), but are not helpful for everyday use. Patch testing is not used to test for allergy, but for contact dermatitis to various chemicals, which is due to another part of the immune system.
Numerous other tests are performed by non-allergy practitioners or people who call themselves “allergists” but lack formal training and national board-certification in the field of allergy and immunology. Learn more about which tests to avoid in the diagnosis of allergies. Always see a formally-trained, board-certified or board-eligible allergist when having allergy treatments.
Allergy skin testing is by far the most used of the three methods but it too varies in methodology. With the scratch test a small amount of the suspected allergen is placed on the forearm or upper arm (or on the back) and then introduced under the surface by scratching or pricking. The skin is then observed for swelling or redness. Results normally appear in about 20 minutes and the test can be conducted with a number of suspected allergens at one time. Skin tests are useful in detecting respiratory allergies, penicillin allergy, insect allergies, and food based allergies.
How to Control ?
Unless you live in a vacuum, it is extremely difficult to avoid allergens all together. But with a little management and control, you can reduce the occurrence of symptoms caused by these allergens.
Keeping clean is always the first step in controlling allergy symptoms. Before bedtime, it is advisable to shower or bathe to wash off pollen and other allergens in your hair and skin. You can also reduce the amount of mold in your home by frequently cleaning those places where mold often accumulates.
Allergy symptoms caused by pollen and other airborne allergens are avoided by going outside the home during dry, windy days. Keep windows and doors shut, and use an air conditioner at home and in your car.
Treatments for Allergies:
Many treatments for respiratory allergies can be purchased over-the-counter, but before purchasing allergy medications, it is a recommended that that a full medical evaluation is completed by a healthcare professional. A physician or nurse practitioner can best advise you and help you to develop and follow an effective treatment plan. Mild respiratory allergies of respiratory symptoms of allergies can be treated with a variety of over the counter or prescription medications available in pill, liquid, and nasal spray forms. These include corticosteroids, antihistamines, decongestants, leukotriene modifiers, and cromolyn sodium. Allergy injections are also available for people who do not respond readily to medications. For moderate to severe reactions, the same types of medications may be used in intramuscular, intravenous, and or inhaled forms in the ER or healthcare setting. For severe anaphylactic reactions, injectable epinephrine is often used. Allergic asthma is may also be treated with bronchodialators inhaled in a mist form.
Prevention of allergic reactions in sensitive people is also a key part of treatment. This includes minimizing or eliminating specific allergens that one is exposed to. For example, for a person who has been diagnosed with dust allergies, it may be recommended that they “allergy proof” their house by regularly have heating vents cleaned and eliminate carpeting and draperies, which can trap and hold dust.