Anyone can develop an allergy. They are not peculiar to either gender; neither do they affect people of a specific age. You may suddenly discover that you have become allergic to something that has never affected you before.
Allergies are among the most prevalent chronic conditions. When your immune system starts reacting abnormally to a foreign substance which it perceives as an invader, that’s an allergy right there. However, there are many substances your immune system can react to. Anything can be an allergen if it causes an adverse effect.
For example, a study reveals that more than 200 million people worldwide have allergy-related asthma.
To further illustrate how your immune system could react to any substance, 5% of the total population has allergies to insect stings, and around 100 deaths occur every year as a result of anaphylaxis that follows a sting. Also, about 5-10% of health workers have at least one allergy.
An allergen is a substance that brings about an allergic reaction. It can be found in drinks, foods, or the environment. For example, a person whose immune system reacts to pollen and perceives it as hazardous is said to be allergic to the pollen substance.
Reactions to an allergen are often not immediate. The immune system builds up a sensitivity to the substance gradually before overreacting.
If an individual suffering from an allergy comes in contact with an allergen, the immune system will take some time to identify it. It could take a few days or several years. As the immune system starts becoming sensitive to the allergen, it makes antibodies to attack it. This process is known as sensitization.
Common Allergies You Should Know About
- Food allergy. This kind of allergy is quite prevalent. Your immune system may react to more than 170 foods that can cause allergic reactions, but the major food allergens include peanuts, shellfish, soy, egg, milk, tree nuts, and fish. If you experience a burning sensation in the mouth and lips, swelling of the lips and face, nausea, or skin rash tingling in the mouth within a couple of minutes to two hours of eating such foods, you may have a food allergy.
- Insect sting allergy. Insect stings can result in an allergic reaction. Insects such as bees, yellow jackets, wasps, hornets, and others could cause allergic reactions. Some of the symptoms of insect allergies are swelling of the throat and tongue, hoarse voice, stomach cramps, nausea or diarrhea, tightness in the chest, difficulty when breathing, hives, and itches over most of the body.
- Latex allergy. This kind of allergy involves a reaction to proteins in natural rubber latex. Mild symptoms associated with latex allergies are hives or rashes, sneezing, itching sensation, and redness of the skin. More severe symptoms include breathing difficulties, scratchy throat, runny nose, and itchy or watery eyes.
- Drug allergy. This kind of reaction occurs with medication capable of giving you allergies. Studies show that medicines cause the highest allergy-related deaths. Some of the symptoms of drug allergy are shortness of breath, itchy or watery eyes, runny nose, swelling of lips, and fever.
There are also different types of allergic reactions. They include:
- Allergic Rhinitis. This is a type of allergic response also called hay fever, which manifests through watery eyes, sneezing, itchy eyes, and other similar symptoms. It is widespread and is often self-diagnosable. There are two types of allergic rhinitis – the first one occurs seasonally and arises due to sensitivity to pollens from trees, weeds, grasses, or airborne mould spores. The other type is perennial, and it occurs year-round. This type is brought about by sensitivity to mould, dust mites, pet hair, or cockroaches.
- Allergic asthma. Airways of people who have allergic asthma are extra sensitive to some allergens. Once these allergens get into their bodies, their immune systems start overreacting. These individuals can experience symptoms such as tightening of the chest, coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, and fast breathing.
- Atopic dermatitis. This is also called eczema. It is an inflammation of the skin, which has an itchy effect and is more prevalent in individuals with a family history of the condition. The symptoms include itching, cracks behind the ears, redness of the skin, dry and scaly skin, rash on the legs, arms, and cheeks.
- Hives. Also known as urticaria, this is an allergic reaction that is more prevalent in women. Reaction to food, medicine, or other irritants triggers this condition. Acute urticaria affects 15-20% of the world population at some point in their lifetime, while chronic hives affect 2-3% of individuals over a lifetime. The condition is usually self-diagnosable.
- Anaphylaxis. This is a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction to foods, medications, latex, and insect stings. After exposure to the allergen, the response occurs within minutes or seconds. It is a severe condition with symptoms such as hives or swelling, hoarse voice, nausea, tightness of the throat, and trouble with breathing.
You can get treatments for mild allergies from pharmacies without a prescription. The chief remedies for allergies are antihistamines. Depending on the part of the body that requires the medication, you can take antihistamines as liquids, tablets, or nasal spray.
There are also allergy shots that can help your body adjust to allergens that trigger allergic responses. These are not a cure, but they will help your symptoms get better. They work well for allergies to bee stings, moulds, pollen, dust mites, and pet dander. However, there is no proof that they could help against drug, latex, and food allergies.
Serious cases of allergies that conventional treatments cannot cure can be fixed with allergen immunotherapy.
Allergens are present all around us, in the home and outdoors. If you have an allergy, it is essential to take measures that would protect you from allergens lying all around.
Firstly, recognizing and preventing factors that trigger allergic reactions is the most critical step in preventing allergic responses and reducing symptoms. Do you wish to reduce allergens in your home and even outdoors? If yes, then take note of the following tips:
- Pets. Pets are significant sources of allergens. Their dead skin flakes, dried urine, and saliva are primary allergens. If you need to have a pet, you are advised to keep it clean. It is also advisable to limit their access to specific areas of the house and keep them away from the bedroom.
- Hay fever or pollen allergies. This occurs when pollen gets into the air through grass and trees. It is recommended to check weather reports and stay indoors when pollen counts are high.
- Mould spores. This is responsible for allergies in some people. It is advisable to keep the rooms dry and adequately ventilated to avoid mould spores.
- Food allergies. If your immune system reacts to specific food substances, you shouldn’t eat just anything in a restaurant. Take acute care in this regard. Also, check the labels of anything you wish to consume for the list of ingredients to avoid food allergies.
- Bites and stings from insects. It is essential to reduce exposure to insects as their bites and stings can cause allergies. Always wear suitable footwear, ensure that no skin is exposed, and apply insect repellent to keep insects away.
- Dust mites. Insects found in household specks of dust are dust mites. They are primary triggers for allergies, but can be controlled by always wiping surfaces using a clean, wet cloth, a highly-efficient particulate air (HEPA) filter, hard vinyl or wood flooring instead of carpets, and also by vacuuming and washing curtains, sofas, soft toys, and cushions.
- Anaphylaxis. If you are at risk of having severe allergies, you should always take adrenaline auto-injector along with you wherever you go. Also, wear a MedicAlert bracelet that can alert people of your allergies in case of an emergency.
Other tips include:
- Stay indoors when allergens are at their highest point, especially between 10 am and 4 pm.
- To limit the amount of pollen you take in along with air, wearing a facemask can be helpful when you are outside.
- Protect your eyes from pollen by wearing sunglasses.
- Use air conditioner when you drive.
- Get someone to do your yard work for you.
- Don’t forget to wear a mask when cleaning the house.
Every year, an increasing number of people continue to suffer from allergies. Statistics indicate that incidences of allergies continue to rise. Notwithstanding that there is no cure for allergies, there are a variety of effective treatments that can help relieve the symptoms. Also, it is vital to apply preventive measures to keep yourself away from allergen triggers.