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Allergies

Overview

An allergy is your immune system’s reaction towards a foreign substance it considers to be harmful. These substances include food, pollen, medication, latex, and more. These are called allergens. The basic function of an immune system is to develop antibodies against harmful substances. Allergic reactions are the immune system’s response against substances the body views as harmful but are completely harmless.

Allergies are mostly developed at an early age and some may subside with time but most allergies are lifelong. Latex allergy, food allergy, seasonal allergy, animal allergy, environmental allergies, pollen allergy, and drug allergy are all very commonly found allergies in the United States.

The prevalence of allergies is such that it is the 6th leading cause of chronic illness and affects more than 50 million people each year in the US alone.

Causes

An allergic reaction is caused when your body recognizes a harmless substance as a dangerous invader. Once exposed to that substance the immune system produces antibodies in response to fight the alleged harmful effects of that substance. Whenever you are exposed to the substance again, your immune system creates a chemical called histamine that causes allergic symptoms. 

Doctors and medical professionals don’t know what exactly leads to a body being allergic to a certain harmless substance, but if you have someone in your family who is allergic to a particular substance, it’s likely that you will be allergic to that substance too. Common allergens include food, latex, pollen, medication, insect stings, animal and dust mites.

Symptoms

An allergic reaction causes symptoms  of irritation, redness, or inflammation in the eyes, nasal passages, throat, or the skin. The severity and specificity of these symptoms depend on what substance is the individual allergic to.

Mentioned below are the symptoms of some specific allergies: 

Seasonal Allergy:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Itchy and watery eyes
  • Sore and itchy throat
  • Dry cough
  • Ear congestion

Food Allergy

Insect Allergy

  • Itching
  • Swelling and pain at the site of the sting
  • Mild Hives
  •  Dizziness
  • Stomach pain

Drug Allergy

  • Skin rash and hives
  • Itchy and flaky skin
  • Runny nose
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the tongue, lips, and face
  • Fever

Latex Allergy

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Itchy and watery eyes
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Itchy and scratchy throat
  • Coughing

Animal Allergy

  • Runny and stuffy nose
  • Itchy nasal pathways and throat
  • Postnasal drip
  • Itchy and watery eyes
  • Facial pressure
  • Sneezing

Diagnosis

A primary care physician will determine what exactly you are allergic to. They will ask you questions regarding your family’s history as well as your daily routine, and consequently prescribe an allergy test.  In case you have a food allergy, your family care doctor will likely ask you about your daily appetite and will recommend you to stop eating a few suspected foods during the allergy evaluation.

Your primary care physician may suggest you get one or both of the following tests done:

If the physician identifies that your symptoms are being caused due to some other health concern, they will recommend further tests to evaluate your condition properly. 

 

Treatment

Allergy treatments include:

  • Avoiding exposure to allergens: Your primary care physician will consult you on how and what steps you can take to identify and avoid your allergens and allergy triggers. This is one of the most initial and important steps of reducing allergic reactions.
  • Medications: You might be prescribed medications depending on what you are allergic to. These said medications will help curb the allergy symptoms. You might be given over-the-counter medications or prescription drugs and medication like pills, nasal sprays, or eye drops.
  • Immunotherapy: Allergen Immunotherapy is recommended for extremely severe allergies or allergies that can’t be treated with the help of other medications. A series of injections of purified allergen extracts are given to the person suffering from severe allergy symptoms, these injections are usually given over a period of a few years.

When To See A Doctor

You should see a primary care physician if your allergies are causing problematic symptoms like chronic sinus infections or difficulty breathing or in case you experience hay fever or other allergy symptoms several months out of the year.

 

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