What Are Allergies ~ Symptoms, Causes, Treatments!

allergiesWhat Are Allergies:

Allergies are relatively common.  Both genetics and environmental factors play a role.  The immune system normally protects the body against harmful substances, such as bacteria and viruses.  It also reacts to foreign substances calledallergens, which are generally harmless and in most people do not cause a problem.  But in a person with allergies, the immune response is oversensitive.  When the immune system recognizes an allergen, it releases chemicals such as histamines, which fight off the allergen.  This causes itching, swelling, mucus production, muscle spasms, hives, rashes, and other symptoms, which vary from person to person.  The most common allergens include pollen, mold, pet dander, as well as dust.  Food and drug allergies are common.  Allergic reactions can also be caused by insect bites, jewelry, cosmetics, spices, and other substances.  Some people have allergy-like reactions to hot or cold temperatures, sunlight, or other environmental triggers.  Sometimes, friction (rubbing or roughly stroking the skin) will cause symptoms.  A specific allergy is not usually passed down through families (inherited). However, if both your parents have allergies, you are likely to have allergies.  The chance is greater if your mother has allergies.  Allergies may make certain medical conditions such as sinus problems,eczema, and asthma worse.


Common Symptoms of Allergies:

Most allergies are related to how an allergy sufferer comes in contact with the allergen.  Airborne allergies may cause red, swollen and itchy eyes.  Food allergies can cause hives, stomach cramps, diarrhea or vomiting.  And skin allergies can cause site burning, redness and itching.  Most of these symptoms are mild and can be treated with antihistamines.

Severe Symptoms of Allergies:

Most signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction are mild to moderate.  One particular sign, however, is anaphylaxis, a serious life-threatening condition.  It can make an airway swell up and potentially close.  It has the potential to drop the blood pressure, as well as presenting other milder symptoms.  If you experience these life-threatening symptoms, call 911 immediately.  Some people who have been previously diagnosed with a potential for an anaphylactic reaction may have had an epinephrine auto injector prescribed.  If this is the case, give yourself a shot right away when severe symptoms appear.  An emergency room visit is also still advisable to ensure the symptoms don’t return.


Treatment Options For Allergies:

Avoidance of the Allergy:

Listed below are several different ways to help yourself if you suffer from allergies

  • Wear a pollen mask when mowing the grass or housecleaning.
  • Stay indoors in the morning (when the pollen count is at its highest) and on windy days.
  • Read and understand food labels (for people with food allergies).
  • Keep windows and doors closed during heavy pollination seasons.
  • Use the air conditioner in the house and car.
  • Rid the home of indoor plants and other sources of mildew.
  • Don’t allow dander-producing animals in the house.
  • Change feather pillows, woolen blankets and clothing to cotton or synthetic materials.
  • Enclose mattress, box springs and pillows in plastic barrier cloth.
  • Wash sheets, mattress pad and blankets weekly in hot water (at least 130F).
  • Remove carpets and upholstered furniture (drastic measure).
  • Use acaricide (a chemical that kills house-dust mites) or a tannic acid solution (solution that neutralizes the allergen in mite droppings).
  • Use air filters.
  • Use a dehumidifier.

Medication for Allergies:

When avoidance or control of an allergies isn’t possible, medications may be necessary.  Below I’ve listed some common medications if you suffer from allergies:

  • Decongestants: administered via spray or orally to unclog nasal passages.  Examples of spray decongestants are oxymetazoline (Afrin) and phenylephrine (Vicks Sinex).  Other medications or brands may be recommended by your doctor or pharmacist if you suffer from allergies.  Oral decongestants include pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) and combinations of decongestants and analgesics.
  • Steroid nasal sprays: administered via spray to mute the inflammatory response.  Medications include fluticonase (Flonase), mometasone (Nasonex), triamcinolone (Nasocort), and beclomethasone (Beconase, Vancenase).
  • Antihistamines: drugs that block the action of histamine, which is responsible for allergy symptoms.  Short-acting antihistamines, which are generally over-the-counter (non-prescription), often relieve mild to moderate symptoms, but can cause drowsiness.  A pediatrician should be consulted before using these medicines in children, as they may affect learning.  One formerly prescription medication, loratadine (Claritin), is now available over the counter.  It does NOT tend to cause drowsiness or affect learning in children.  Longer-acting antihistamines cause less drowsiness, can be equally effective, and usually do not interfere with learning.  These medications, which require a prescription, include fexofenadine (Allegra), and cetirizine (Zyrtec). Other nonprescription antihistamines include diphenhydramine (Benadryl), chlorpheniramine maleate (Chlor-Trimeton, Coricidin) and clemastine (Tavist).  New to the market, and available by prescription only, is an antihistamine nasal spray called azelastine (Astelin).
  • Cromoglycate (Nalcrom)or related agents: administered mostly as eyedrops or nasal sprays to help prevent attacks.

Immunotherapy For Allergies:

When avoidance, environmental control measures and medications fail to control allergy symptoms, the doctor may suggest allergy immunotherapy (AKA allergy shots ~ as a type 1 diabetic, I know this well).  Immunotherapy involves the injections of allergen extracts to “desensitize” the person.

Typically, the treatment begins with injections of a weal solution of allergen given one to five times a week, with the strength gradually increasing.  When the maximum dose is reached, maintenance injections are given at increasing intervals until the patient receives injections only once a month.  It may take up to six months or so to show results. It usually takes about three to four years for the patient to be free of symptoms.

As always, if you suffer from allergies your best bet is to consult with your psychian to discuss all your treatment options.  With the abundance of today’s options on the market, individuals who suffer from allergies have numberous options that they can choose from :-).


Thanks for Reading!!!



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Category: Diet, Healthy Foods, nutrition

About the Author ()

Originally born and raised in Woburn Massachusetts (love my Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins!) I made my trek northward to the beautiful state of Maine back in October 2003 after marrying my college sweetheart. We began a family in 2004 and I am happy to say that we have 4 happy, healthy, beautiful children that bring an amazing amount of joy to our lives! I am also a type 1 diabetic. Diagnosed back in 2006 (out of the blue), at a routine doctors visit. Diabetes has single handed-ly been the biggest obstacle that I have faced in my life. At the time I had no idea of what a roller coaster ride I would be in for, I mean really, what's a couple finger sticks a day and a couple shots of insulin for food...this will be easy, I got this! Well 2 ER visits later, I quickly found out that this was no joke, and if I wanted to see my little ones grow up, this was something that I needed to take seriously! Little by little as we began to digest all of the information that was being thrown at acting insulin, short acting insulin, lancets, test meters, test strips, ketone sticks, carb counting, food groups, glucagon emergency kits, insulin pumps, glucose monitors...OMG, my head was spinning like a top!! After a couple of crazy years, I can happily say that I am well controlled and feel absolutely amazing! Not to be lost in all of this either is the amazing support of my wife. She has been my rock! She has been with me every step of the way, from 2am finger sticks to helping me change out a failed pump in the middle of a crowded restaurant. She truly is an amazing wife and mom and I can't imaging my life without her love and support- love you babe!

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