When illness strikes, the body’s immune system attacks to wade off the disease-causing bacteria and viruses. The same thing happens when allergies attack the body. The immune system fights away substances that are harmless to your body, which can include viruses, bacteria, or allergens. When your antibodies clash with the allergens, it results in an allergic reaction.
Allergic reactions vary in severity from mild to anaphylaxis, a dangerous, life-threatening reaction. Most of the allergies have no cure, however, treatment helps to mitigate the effects of allergic reactions or reduce the symptoms of allergies.
Causes of Allergies
Some allergies seem to run in families, although there is no scientific evidence behind the theory. Here are some of the allergens:
- Dust and pollen
- Insect stings
- Certain types of medication
- Certain plants
- Animal dander
Common Types of Allergies
This is the most common allergy; it’s caused by aerosolized allergens which attack the nose and sinuses. The allergy is split into seasonal and perennial (year-round) rhinitis. Molds, animal dander, and dust mites cause the year-round type. Grass, weed, and tree pollens cause seasonal rhinitis.
Nose and sinus inflammation occur, and you may suffer from a runny nose, throat clearing, sneezing, a stuffy nose, postnasal drip, sinus pain/pressure, and recurrent sinus infections.
Asthma results from hyperactive and inflammation of the lower airways, causing reversible and recurrent spasms of the airways. Exercise and viral respiratory infections can also trigger asthma. Symptoms include:
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
Also known as allergic eyes, conjunctivitis occurs when the tissues surrounding the eyeballs and eyelids get inflamed. Allergic reactions cause inflammation leading to the following symptoms:
- Itchy and watery eyes
- Red eyelids
- Swelling of the eye membranes
The allergy is prominent among infants, and it attacks people who are susceptible to other allergic reactions such as rhinitis and asthma. It causes a rash that is dry and itchy. The rush attacks the face, knee behinds, and front elbows.
The red skin reactions appear raised and are itchy. They materialize anywhere on the body. Hives are a result of viral infections and allergic reactions to food and medication. The symptoms are:
- Intense itching
- Raised red welts that quickly disappear
- Body swells
Anaphylaxis is a sudden and severe allergic reaction that develops seconds after exposure to an allergen. It’s life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention; some of its symptoms include:
- Breathing problems
- A sudden drop in the body’s blood pressure
- Blocking of the airway
Symptoms of Allergies
Symptoms range from mild to severe; they depend on the type of allergy you have. During the initial stages of exposure, the symptoms may be mild; repeated exposure heightens the symptoms.
Some of the mild symptoms of allergies include:
- Skin itching
- Watery eyes
- Reddening of the skin
- Skin rash
- Nasal congestion
- Fear and anxiety
- Difficulty in breathing
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Body weakness
- Irregular heartbeat
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Vomiting or nausea
- Swelling of the tongue, face, and nose
- Chest tightness and pain
How Are Allergies diagnosed?
An allergist, general physician, or an ear, nose, and throat doctor can diagnose allergies. They perform a medical examination while checking your health history. The most commonly used tests are:
- Blood tests
- Skin tests
- Elimination tests
It involves smearing a tiny amount of a probable allergen on the skin; if a reaction occurs, you are deemed allergic to the substance. The allergen may be:
- Patched to your skin
- Injected into the skin via a small prick
- Injected via an intradermal test (an injection under your skin)
Under this test, your blood undergoes checks against probable allergens. Blood tests normally come into play when skin tests fail.
Also known as the challenge test, elimination entails doing away with certain types of food from your diet. If the allergy symptoms subside, there is a huge probability that the eliminated foods are allergens which you should avoid.
How Are Allergies Treated?
Allergies do not have known cures, but various medications can mitigate the effects; when you experience mild symptoms, you can leave them to subside. If you are experiencing a new attack, seek the help of a doctor. Most allergy medications are available over the counter. Here are some treatment options:
- Antihistamines: the immune system produces histamine during an allergic reaction; antihistamines help to stall histamine. These are like Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra, or Benadryl.
- Immunotherapy: it helps you to develop tolerance to the allergen. Small doses of the allergen are taken with time. The amounts are increased as the body’s tolerance builds up.
- Decongestants: they help to unclog a blocked nose.
- Antileukotrienes, also known as leukotriene receptor antagonists, fight allergies that are drug-resistant. The drugs are effective against allergens that cause swelling. An example of this is Singulair.
- Corticosteroids; help lower the level of inflammation in the body; they come in cream, spray, pills, and inhaler forms.
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that may cause death if wrongly handled. Suppose you witness an allergic attack, call 911 or administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) as you wait for help to arrive. People suffering from extreme allergic reactions carry emergency medication like the epinephrine auto-injector. The injector helps to raise the level of blood pressure and open airways for breathing.
How to Prevent Allergies
Allergies have no prevention or cure, but methods of managing allergic reactions and their symptoms exist. If you are at risk of suffering from an allergic reaction, you should do the following:
- If you get exposed to an allergen, seek immediate medical attention
- Avoid exposure to probable allergens
- Carry medication with you to help fight sudden attacks
- Seek thorough testing to know allergens that affect you
- Wear a medical bracelet to alert others about your allergy; this may come in handy if you cannot communicate while under an attack.
- Keep track of your symptoms. Using a diary, jot down what triggers your allergic reactions and what treatment works best against the attacks.
Allergies are common, and we at C/V ENT Surgical Group will help you prevent and manage environmental allergies. We are not allergists; we diagnose environmental allergies and treat them using top-notch procedures and medications. If patients suffer from severe environmental allergies, we often work in conjunction with allergists in the community who will administer allergy shots to desensitize people.