What Is An Allergy?
How often do you suffer from an annoying sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, or rashes on your skin? The common cold shares many similar symptoms, however, what goes unnoticed very often is the underlying allergy.
An allergy is an immune system response to a foreign substance . These foreign substances are called allergens. Many allergens are everyday substances that are harmless to most people. An allergen could be an airborne particle (house dust mites, mold or pollen), a food allergen (commonly peanuts, milk or seafood), natural rubber latex, animal dander, toxins from insect stings or drugs (penicillin or aspirin).(1)
How Do Allergies Happen?
One of the roles of the immune system is to produce antibodies and destroy harmful substances in the body. If a person has an allergy to a substance, their immune system will react as though that substance is an invader and trying to fight it off. This causes allergic reaction such as skin rashes/inflame, sneezing, blocked nose, swollen eyes or a cough.
In an attempt to protect the body, the immune system makes antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies then cause certain cells to release chemicals like histamine into the bloodstream to defend against the allergen “invader”.(2)
For instance, shellfish allergies are most often the immune system’s response to a protein found in shellfish muscles called tropomyosin. Antibodies trigger the release of histamines to attack the tropomyosin. The histamine release leads to a number of symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting and skin reactions including itching, hives, or eczema.
It is the release of these chemicals that causes allergic reactions. Future exposure to that same allergen will trigger this allergic response again. Allergic reactions can be a nuisance and hamper your normal activities.
Common Types and Symptoms of Allergies
Symptoms of an allergic reaction usually develop within a few minutes of being exposed to something you’re allergic to, although occasionally they can develop gradually over a few hours.
An allergic attacks can range anywhere from mild and annoying to more severe and even life threatening.
Here are some common types of allergies and symptoms:
1. Hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis, can cause
- Runny, stuffy nose
- Watery, red or swollen eyes
- Itching of the nose, eyes or roof of the mouth
2. Eczema, an allergic skin condition also called atopic dermatitis, can cause skin to:
- Intense itch
- Flake or peel
3. A food allergy can cause:
- Tingling or itching in the mouth
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, face or throat
- Wheezing or shortness of breath
- Feeling dizzy and lightheaded
4. An insect sting allergy can cause:
- A large area of swelling at the sting site
- Itching or hives all over the body
- Coughor chest tightness
- Wheezing or shortness of breath
5. A drug allergy can cause:
- Itchy skin
- Shortness of breath
- Facial swelling
Allergies can develop at any point in a person’s life. You might be more likely to develop an allergy if you:
- Has a family history of allergies
Allergies tend to run in families.
If one parent is allergic, a child runs a risk of 30-50% of inheriting the tendency to be allergic while if both parents have allergies, their children have a 60-80% likelihood of developing allergies.
- Has another existing allergic reaction
When having one kind of allergic reaction, the immune system already feels threatened. Thus, the person will be more susceptible to reacting adversely to other allergen.
- Is a child (1-12 years)
Children are more prone to developing allergies as a result of limited immune system exposure.
Environmental allergies involve an immune system overreaction to things that exist in our everyday surroundings such as pollen, dust, pet dander, mold and exposure to cigarette smoke.
Having an allergy increases your risk of certain other medical problems, including:
Your risk of getting these conditions is higher if you have hay fever or asthma.
An immune system reaction that affects the airways and breathing. Asthma is usually triggered by exposure to an allergen in the environment.
It is a severe and life-threatening allergic reaction that may cause death. It causes a series of symptoms, including a rash, low pulse, and shock.
How can you prevent and manage an allergic reaction?
You may not be able to avoid an allergic reaction completely, but some steps can help you prevent future allergic reactions.
- Avoid known triggers
This is the best and most important way to prevent an allergic reaction, but not always easy or practical. Know your triggers and try to avoid them. For example, If you’re allergic to dust mites, dust and vacuum and wash bedding often.
- Keep a diary
Track what you do, what you eat, when symptoms occur and what seems to help. This may help you and your doctor identify triggers or worsens your symptoms.
- Manage stress
Stress hormones wreak havoc in the body and especially in the immune system, making allergies even worse.
- Explore natural remedies
Try natural remedies to help reduce recurrent allergic reaction without causing drowsiness and reduce dependency on anti-allergic drug . For instance, Perilla Seeds has shown potential for relieving allergy symptoms, acting similar to antihistamines while Quercetin is a nutrient found in onions, apples, and black tea that research has shown to block the release of histamines.
Allergies can’t be cured, but you can treat and control your symptoms.(3) They can have a big impact on a person’s overall quality of life.
Depending on the severity of the allergies, they can make it difficult to enjoy everyday activities or to feel your best. However, most allergies are manageable with avoidance, medications, and lifestyle changes so it can make life more enjoyable.