What are Allergies?
Allergies are an immune response or reaction to a usually harmless substance in the environment. Allergies are fairly common and can cause a runny nose, sneezing, itching, rashes, swelling, asthma, headaches, and sinus pain. Symptoms will vary.
How do you get Allergies?
Scientists think both genes and the environment have something to do with getting allergies. Normally, your immune system fights germs, but in most allergic reactions your immune system is responding to a false alarm.
Allergies can also be inherited. Studies show that if one of your parents had allergies, you have a 50% chance of becoming allergic. If both of your parents have allergies, your chance of developing allergies is as high as 80%.
What Causes Allergies?
The air you breathe contains small particles which can cause allergies. The type of particles in the air will vary according to your location, the time of year, and moisture in your environment.
Common causes of inhalant allergies are pollens (trees, weeds, and grasses), house dust particles, mold spores, animal hair and dander, and insect particles. People who have allergies are often sensitive to more than one thing.
Foods can also cause allergic reactions but usually produce different symptoms such as cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Substances you touch can cause allergic reactions and are usually evident in the form of a rash on parts of your body.
The signs and symptoms for some allergies are sneezing spells, a runny nose with profuse watery discharge, nasal congestion, and itching of the nose and eyes. The person usually has swollen nasal passages, reddened eyes with swollen eyelids, excessive tearing, and headache or sinus pain. Some allergy sufferers also complain of an itchy throat and a general ill feeling called Malaisa.
Typically a person with allergic rash has small, flat, purple skin blotches of varying size which are caused by dilation of blood vessels in the skin. These blotches usually appear on the arms and legs and are accompanied by itching, prickling, and tingling. Swelling may sometimes occur elsewhere on the body, such as on the face, hands, feet, or genitals.
Try to identify the trigger of the situation which led to the symptoms. Ask yourself a few questions:
- Where did the reaction occur (i.e. work, home, park, new surroundings, etc.)?
- Were you inside or outside?
- Were you eating or drinking?
- Were there any animals or insects near you?
- Were you wearing something new?
- Did you use a new soap or detergent?
A physician can perform an allergy test to see if you have a variety of common allergens. Once the allergen has been identified, manage your allergies by following some tips:
- Avoid allergens when possible
- Avoid tobacco smoke and other irritants
- Use medication as prescribed
- See a doctor regularly
- Stay healthy
How Can Your Allergies Be Treated?
Some allergies can be treated by avoiding exposure to the allergen. However, this isn’t always effective so medications such as antihistamines, oral decongestants, nasal sprays, and bronchodilators may be used in controlling your allergic symptoms. Over time medication may not be as effective, so patients have turned to immunotherapy to reduce their symptoms.
Immunotherapy, commonly referred to as “allergy injections,” is a program designed to desensitize you to those substances to which you are allergic. After several months of weekly injections of increasingly stronger doses you will reach a maintenance dose and continue to receive that dose at regular intervals. The size of doses and length of intervals between doses depends greatly on your response to the injections. Typically, an immunotherapy treatment plan is about 3-5 years.
Sublingual Immunotherapy Drops
Sublingual immunotherapy drops work in a similar way as the injection—except the patient can administer the drops in the convenience of their home without the injection.
An ongoing program of avoidance, medication, immunotherapy, or a combination of these methods, under the direct supervision of your doctor, is the best approach to controlling your allergies and allowing you to live more comfortably in your surroundings.