Overview of Allergies
An allergy is the body’s defense against a foreign substance. Some of the common causes are: pollen, pet dander, food, etc. The severity depends on the person and can sometimes be life-threatening.
Symptoms will vary depending on the person and the substance that is involved. Your airways, skin, digestive system, and nasal passages can be affected. Symptoms can be mild to life-threatening. Hay fever is also known as allergic rhinitis, and can cause sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, watery eyes, and itching of the nose and eyes. A food allergy can cause hives, swelling of the face, tingling in the mouth, and in some cases, can even cause anaphylaxis. An insect sting will affect the area in which the sting is located. You may notice large swelling at the site, itching, hives, coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, and in some cases, anaphylaxis. A drug allergy can lead to hives, itchy skin, rash, facial swelling, wheezing, and anaphylaxis. Atopic dermatitis is a skin condition in which you may have itchy, red, flaking or peeling skin.
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction. This may cause you go to into shock. Some other signs and symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, skin rash, rapid or weak pulse, and being lightheaded. You will want to see your doctor if you have any of these symptoms and you believe that they have been caused by an allergy. For a severe reaction, you will need to call 911 immediately. Always carry your auto-injector with you.
Causes of Allergies
The cause of an allergy can be from anything and begins when your body thinks that the substance is harmful. Typically, the reaction is evident after the second exposure to the allergen. Some common causes of allergies may include latex, medications, insect stings, foods, dander, pollen, dust mites, and mold.
Risk Factors of Allergies
You are at a higher risk of developing an allergy if you have a family history of allergies or asthma, if you are a child, or have a history of asthma and other allergic conditions. Any of these factors will put you at a higher risk for developing allergies.
Complications of Allergies
There are many complications that are associated with allergies. In cases of severe allergies, you are at a risk of anaphylaxis. Foods, medications, and stings are the most common causes of anaphylaxis. If you have an allergy, you are also at a risk for having asthma too. Oftentimes, allergies will cause an asthma flare up, and it will be very difficult to breathe. You are at a risk for contracting sinusitis, ear infections, or lung infections if you have hay fever or asthma.
The best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to know exactly what you are allergic to and avoid them completely. Even if you are treating your allergy and symptoms, it is still best to avoid them completely. If you are unsure of what is causing your allergic reactions, then you should keep a diary of what causes your symptoms. Note what activities you participate in, what you eat, what you put on your body, any medications, etc. This will help your physician identify any triggers. If you know that you have severe allergic reactions, then you will need to wear a medical alert bracelet so that people will know what to do in an emergency.
Diagnosing an Allergy
The first step to diagnosing an allergy is to log all probable causes of the allergic reaction. Your physician will ask many questions and perform a physical exam to begin the diagnosis. Having a proper diagnosis is essential to feeling better. If you have a food allergy, your physician will ask you to continue your diary and to also stop eating certain foods to see what works. Your physician will also recommend a variety of tests. A blood test or skin test may be performed.
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Treating an Allergy
The first step to treating an allergy is to completely avoid the cause. You can only properly avoid the cause of the allergy when you know exactly what the cause is. Depending on the type of allergy, your physician can recommend a variety of medications that will help your symptoms. Some medications are for daily use, and others can be used in an emergency. For people with severe allergies that just cannot get relief, your allergist may recommend immunotherapy. In immunotherapy, the goal is to expose you to doses of the allergen in a controlled environment so that your body can become used to the substance. The goal is to work you up to the above average dose so that you will no longer feel allergy symptoms. You should always carry an auto-injector with you in case of emergency. Before an emergency happens, you should also speak with your allergist about an emergency plan. Know what to do on every different reaction level and write it down. Distribute this paper to everyone that is around you, whether it is your coworker, family, or your child’s babysitter or teacher.
Allergy Action Plan
An allergy action plan should be created with your physician. This will summarize what you should do in every situation. For example, the first section is for a normal day. On this section, you will list the daily medications and steps that your physician has told you to do. The second section is for when you are experiencing a mild allergy, and the final section is what to do in an emergency. If your child has the allergy, then create one for them as well. The goal of the allergy action plan is to be ready for any situation that you may be in. If you are likely to be unresponsive during a reaction, then speak with the people that are around you the most and wear a medical bracelet.