Allergies: Everything You Need to Know

Allergies happen as the immune system reacts to a foreign substance that is normally not a threat to the body. These foreign substances are referred to as allergens. Allergens can be a wide variety of different things, including pet dander, pollen, certain foods, and more.

Your immune system is beneficial in keeping you healthy by attacking harmful pathogens. Its primary role is to fight any foreign substances that may cause harm to your body. However, your immune system’s response to allergens may differ. It may manifest sternutation or sneezing, inflammation, or other unpleasant and even lethal symptoms. Various antihistamine medications are available to prevent these symptoms.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What symptoms can allergies cause? 

Factors such as allergy types and their severity may affect the symptoms that your body might encounter. Taking antihistamine medications before exposing yourself to allergens will reduce these symptoms, but not eradicate them.

Food Allergies

Food allergies can stimulate numerous responses, such as inflammation, urticaria, vomiting, and more. It may take some time before a person can realize that they have food allergies. So, if you have an unexpected reaction after eating certain foods and you have no idea what’s happening, consult a medical practitioner right away. They can diagnose your issue or refer you to a specialist.

Seasonal Allergies

Symptoms of colds and hay fever are sometimes interchangeable. They both cause swollen eyes, congestion, and runny noses. Oftentimes, these can be treated at home by Over-the-counter medications. Go to your doctor immediately if serious symptoms start to manifest.

Severe Allergies

Anaphylaxis may happen due to serious allergic reactions. This is a potentially fatal symptom that can cause breathing difficulties, dizziness, and even fainting. If you suddenly encounter these serious symptoms after possible exposure to allergens, ask for medical assistance immediately. Signs and symptoms may vary for each individual.

Skin allergies

Skin allergy is one of the most common manifestations of allergy. It can be a direct response after allergen exposure. In particular, if you eat something you’re allergic to, it will affect your body in some way. You may experience a tingling sensation in your throat or mouth. Skin rashes may also occur.

On the other hand, Contact Dermatitis is your body’s response when directly exposed to foreign substances. This may occur if you have physical contact with something you’re allergic to. It could be anything from plants to cleaning products.

Symptoms of skin allergies include:

  • Rashes: Areas of skin are irritated, red, or inflamed, and can be throbbing or have a tingling sensation.
  • Eczema: Patches of skin are swelling and it itches and bleeds.
  • Contact dermatitis: Red, itchy patches of skin develop almost right after exposure to allergens.
  • Sore throat: The pharynx or throat is irritated or inflamed.
  • Hives: Red, itchy, and raised welts of different sizes and shapes appear on the surface of the skin.
  • Swollen eyes: Eyes may be watery or itchy and look “puffed up”.
  • Itching: There’s irritation or swelling in the skin.
  • Burning: Skin inflammation may result in soreness and stinging sensations on the skin.

How are allergies developed? 

There are no recent studies that explain why our immune systems sometimes have an allergic response when our bodies are exposed to harmless foreign substances. Allergies are sometimes hereditary. However, only a general sensitivity to allergic response is genetic. Allergies to specific allergens cannot be inherited. For example, if any of your parents are allergic to shellfish, it doesn’t make you automatically allergic to it too.

Common types of allergens include:

  • Animal products. These include pet dander such as feathers/fur, dust mite waste, and cockroaches.
  • Drugs. Penicillin and sulfa drugs are common causes of allergies.
  • Foods. Wheat, nuts, milk, shellfish, and egg allergies are usual.
  • Insect stings. These include bees, wasps, and mosquitoes.
  • Mold. Airborne spores from mold can precipitate a reaction.
  • Plants. Pollen from grass, weeds, and trees, as well as resin from plants such as poison ivy and poison oak, are very typical plant allergens.
  • Other allergens. Latex, often found in latex gloves and condoms, and metals like nickel are also common allergens.

What is the difference between hay fever and allergies? 

They’re one and the same. Seasonal allergies are often referred to as Hay Fever because that’s the most widespread type of allergy. These are usually the result of allergies to pollen discharge by plants. They manifest the following symptoms:

  • coughing
  • watery eyes
  • itchy eyes
  • runny nose

What is the best treatment for allergies? 

The best way to prevent allergies is to avoid the things or food that may trigger your immune system. The most common medication used to manage allergy symptoms is called an antihistamine. Some are over-the-counter, while some need a prescription. The medications are prescribed depending on the severity of your symptoms.

Allergy medications include:

  • antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • decongestants (Afrin, Suphedrine PE, Sudafed)
  • corticosteroids
  • cetirizine (Zyrtec)
  • loratadine (Claritin)
  • cromolyn sodium (Gastrocrom)
  • leukotriene modifiers (Singulair, Zyflo)

Leukotriene modifiers, specifically Singulair, are only prescribed if there is no other appropriate medication available. This is because Singulair may trigger serious behavioral and mood changes, such as suicidal actions and thoughts.

Other allergy treatments include:

Immunotherapy

Some individuals settle on immunotherapy. This includes receiving IV or IM injections that immunize the body from allergies over the course of several years. Immunotherapy may successfully prevent your allergy symptoms from reoccurring.

Emergency epinephrine

If you have a serious and fatal allergy, always bring an emergency epinephrine shot. This medication will surely manage the allergic response until medical assistance comes. The most common brand of Epinephrine is EpiPen and Twinject. 

Natural remedies

Natural medicines or herbal supplements are now commercially marketed as a treatment or prophylaxis for allergies. But before taking them, be sure to consult your doctor first. Yes, these medicines are natural or herbal but they may contain excipients that may trigger your immune system.

For example, some individuals use essential oils and dried tea which contains flowers and plants that are related to plants to alleviate typical allergies. However, they still include components that might trigger these allergies.

How do you test for allergies? 

The doctor will first ask about your symptoms before conducting a physical test. They will also ask about the foods you’ve consumed as well as any exposure to chemicals, as this can help to determine what triggered your allergy. For instance, if your doctor sees a rash on your hands, he may ask if you have used latex gloves lately. To properly diagnose and confirm allergens, a blood or skin test may be necessary. 

Blood test

If your doctor is concerned about the possibility of severe allergic response, a blood test will be used to confirm the diagnosis. The presence of allergy-causing antibodies known as immunoglobulin E will be evaluated in your blood. These are cells that react to allergens. 

Skin test

To test and treat your allergy, your doctor will refer you to an allergist. The small needles which contain probable allergies will be pierced or scratched on you and once your skin becomes red and swollen, it means that you are allergic to that foreign substance. The reaction of your skin will also be recorded.

How can I make my allergies go away? 

Allergies are impossible to prevent. However, avoiding the allergens that cause your allergy symptoms is the best approach to avoid allergies. An elimination diet is the most efficient way to prevent food allergy symptoms as it can help you figure out what’s causing your allergies. Reading food labels carefully and asking questions while dining out can also help prevent allergies.

Preventing the occurrence of contact, seasonal and other allergies is possible by knowing what are the triggers and avoiding them. For instance, if you’re known to be allergic to dust, you may opt to use higher quality air filters, have your air ducts properly cleaned on a regular basis, and dust your home frequently.

What are the worst allergy symptoms? 

Severe allergic reactions can be fatal if not managed properly. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening reaction to allergen exposure. Most people thought that anaphylaxis only happens due to food allergies. However, any type of allergens may cause the following significant symptoms:

  • increased heart rate
  • possible swelling of the tongue and mouth
  • suddenly narrowed airways

Allergy symptoms may result in many health problems. Your doctor can assist you and they can diagnose what triggers your allergies. They can also distinguish the difference between full-blown allergy and sensitivity. Your doctor will also help you in managing the symptoms to prevent the worst things from occurring.

What is the relationship between asthma and allergies? 

Asthma is a prevalent respiratory disorder that affects many people. People who have it tend to have shortness of breath because it constricts their lungs’ air channels. Allergies and asthma are intimately linked because allergies can both aggravate asthma in people who already have it and can also cause asthma in those who never had it before. Allergy-induced asthma or allergic asthma occurs when an individual acquired these two conditions simultaneously. 

How do you know the difference between a cold and allergies? 

Allergies, common cold, or sinus infection can be difficult to distinguish because these three almost have the same signs which are runny nose, sneezing, and coughing. However, allergies cause skin rashes and itchy eyes, whereas cold typically causes physical pains as well as fever. While sinus infection can commonly cause thick, yellow discharge from the nose.

Allergies weaken your immune system, and when you have a weak immune system, you’re more likely to be infected by viruses. Common cold falls into this category. As a result, having allergies may eventually lead you to catch a cold. 

What are the symptoms of allergic cough? 

Sneezing, coughing, and persistent obstinate cough can be experienced if you have hay fever since your body is hypersensitive to allergens. Luckily, it isn’t contagious. The difference between chronic cough and a cough produced by allergies is that the latter only lasts temporarily. The symptoms of this seasonal allergy may only appear at a certain season, especially when plants start to blossom.

Seasonal allergens are the ones that can provoke asthma and cause the airways to tighten and eventually lead to a cough. Feeling of breathlessness and tightness of chest may also be experienced as side effects. 

How do allergies affect bronchitis? 

Bronchitis can either be caused by viruses or bacteria, or it might be the result of a particular allergy. The two types of bronchitis are acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis usually lasts a few days or weeks only, and chronic can last for months or longer. The most prevalent cause of chronic bronchitis is exposure to common allergens, including:

  • pollen
  • cigarette smoke
  • chemical fumes
  • air pollution
  • dust

In contrast to seasonal allergies, many of these allergens can be found in indoor locations such as homes or offices. In response to this, chronic bronchitis may become more persistent. Between chronic and acute bronchitis, the only common symptom is a cough.

What allergies can babies have? 

Skin allergies are more prevalent in young children; However, as they get older, respiratory and food allergies become more prevalent. Common skin allergies on babies include:

  • Eczema. This is a scratchy, red rash caused by an inflammatory skin disorder. Even though they manifest in a slow manner, they are still chronic.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis. Within minutes of your baby coming in contact with the allergen, this form of skin allergen will manifest quickly. Painful blisters and skin breaking may also be experienced if contact dermatitis is more severe. 
  • Hives. These are itchy, reddened welts that typically appear after being exposed to an allergen. These cannot become scaly or split. However, constant scratches on the skin may lead to bleeding.

How do you live with allergies? 

Allergies are prevalent and, for the most part, do not pose a life-threatening concern. The majority of allergies can be controlled with avoidance, medicine, and lifestyle modifications. Being able to cooperate with your doctor or allergist will be a big help for you to avoid major problems and improve your quality of life.