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Allergy: Treatment & Management

 

 

An allergy refers to an exaggerated reaction by our immune system in response to bodily contact with certain foreign substances. It is exaggerated because these foreign substances are usually seen by the body as harmless and no response occurs in non- allergic people. Allergic people's bodies recognize the foreign substance and one part of the immune system are turned on.

A substance that causes a reaction is called an allergen. These reactions are acquired, predictable, and rapid. Allergy is one of four forms of hypersensitivity and is formally called type I (or immediate) hypersensitivity. Allergic reactions are distinctive because of excessive activation of certain white blood cells called mast cells and basophiles by a type of antibody called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). This reaction results in an inflammatory response which can range from uncomfortable to dangerous.

Causes of Allergy:

An allergy develops when the body’s immune system reacts to an allergen as though it is harmful, like it would an infection. It produces a type of antibody (protein that fights off viruses and infections) called immunoglobulin E (IgE) to fight off the allergen.

When the body comes into contact with the allergen again, IgE antibodies are released, causing chemicals to be produced. Together, these cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

One of the chemicals involved in an allergic reaction is histamine, which causes:

  • tightening of your muscles, including those in the walls of your airways
  • more mucus to be produced in your nose lining, causing local itching and burning

Common allergens:

An allergen is any substance that causes your body’s immune system to overreact and produce antibodies against it.

There are thousands of allergens that can trigger allergies, but some of the most common include:

  • House dust mites
  • Grass and tree pollens
  • Pet hair or skin flakes
  • Fungal or mould spores
  • Food (particularly milk, eggs, wheat, soya, seafood, fruit and nuts)
  • Wasp and bee stings
  • Certain medication, such as penicillin
  • Latex
  • Household chemicals

Symptoms of Allergy:

Allergic reactions do not happen the first time you come into contact with an allergen, but at a later point of contact. This is because the body’s immune system has to develop sensitivity to the allergen before you can become allergic to it.

Typical allergic reactions involve irritation and inflammation (swelling) in the body.

Symptoms may include:

  • Sneezing, itching and irritation of nose, ears, throat, skin.
  • Stuffy, runny or tingling nose.
  • Burning, watering, itchy or red eyes.
  • Cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
  • Skin rashes like Eczema, Hives, etc.
  • Feeling of sinus pressure in and around the nose and cheeks.
  • Ear fullness and popping.
  • Dark circles under the eyes.
  • Difficulty swallowing, throat hoarseness with soreness.
  • Headaches and / or Heart palpitations.
  • Fatigue, Joint aches, muscle pains.
  • Stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.
  • Swelling especially in the lips, other parts of the mouth and throat, eyelids, genitals, hands and feet (angioedema).
  • Anaphylactic Shock is a serious allergic reaction, which requires immediate hospitalization.

 

Types of Allergy:

A. Food Allergies:

Food Allergies and Food Intolerance

Food allergies or food intolerances affect nearly everyone at some point. People often have an unpleasant reaction to something they ate and wonder if they have a food allergy.

1. Milk Allergy:

If you suffer from a milk allergy, strictly avoiding milk and food containing milk and milk products is the only way to prevent a reaction, which can include immediate wheezing, vomiting, and hives.

2. Egg Allergy:

Egg allergies - especially to egg whites -- are more common in children than in adults and reactions range from mild to severe.

3. Wheat Allergy:

If you are allergic to any wheat protein strictly avoiding wheat and wheat products is the only way to prevent a reaction, which can include stomach upset, eczema, allergic rhinitis, bronchospasm (asthma-like symptoms) and even anaphylaxis.

4. Nut (Peanut) Allergy:

If you suffer from a nut allergy, strictly avoiding nuts, including peanuts and tree nuts like cashews and walnuts, and food containing nuts is the only way to prevent a reaction.

5. Fish Allergy:

If your doctor is able to identify exactly which type of fish causes your allergies, than you only need to eliminate that species of fish from your diet. For the majority of fish allergy sufferers, this is not an option and all fish must be avoided.

6. Shellfish Allergy:

Learn about shellfish allergies and which foods to avoid.

7. Sulfite Allergy:

Sulfites are a group of sulfur-based compounds that may occur naturally or may be added to food as an enhancer and preservative.

8. Soy Allergy:

Soy allergies start with soybeans. Soybeans are legumes. Other foods in the legume family include navy beans, kidney beans, string beans, black beans, pinto beans, chickpeas (garbanzo or chichi beans), lentils, carob, licorice, and peanuts.

9. Casein Allergy:

If a glass of milk or a slice of pizza causes swollen lips, hives, or other significant symptoms, you may have an allergy to casein, a protein in milk.

B. Seasonal Allergies

1. Spring Allergies:

Spring is the time of year that we normally think of when it comes to seasonal allergies. As the trees start to bloom and the pollen gets airborne, allergy sufferers begin their annual ritual of sniffling and sneezing.

2.Summer Allergies:

Although spring most readily comes to mind when we think of allergies, many of the same allergic triggers that can make us miserable in the spring persist into summer.

3. Fall Allergies:

The allergy triggers might be slightly different, but they can be just as misery-inducing as the flower pollen that fills the air in the spring and summer.

4. Winter Allergies:

C.Pet Allergies

1. Dog Allergy:

For a person with dog allergies, life in a dog-loving country isn't easy. Dog dander gets everywhere, including places where dogs have never set a paw.

2. Cat Allergy:

D.Other Allergies

  • Hay Fever:

Hay fever is an immune disorder characterized by an allergic response to pollen grains and other substances. Also known as allergic rhinitis, there are two types: seasonal, which occurs only during the time of year in which certain plants pollinate, and perennial, which occurs all year round.

  • Allergic Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye):

Pink eye caused by bacteria, viruses, or STDs can spread easily from person to person but is not a serious health risk if diagnosed promptly; allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious.

  • Hives (Urticaria):

Hives, also known as urticaria, are an outbreak of swollen, pale red bumps, patches, or welts on the skin that appear suddenly -- either as a result of allergies, or for other reasons.

  • Allergies to Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac:

Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac are plants that contain an irritating, oily sap called urushiol. Urushiol triggers an allergic reaction when it comes into contact with skin, resulting in an itchy rash, which can appear within hours of exposure or up to several days later.

  • Allergies to Insect Stings (Bee Stings):

Bee, wasp, yellow jacket, hornet, or fire ant stings are the insect stings that most often trigger allergies. However, most people are not allergic to insect stings and may mistake a normal sting reaction for an allergic reaction.

  • Mold Allergy:

People with mold allergies, however, may have a reaction if exposed to too much of the fungus.

  • Pollen Allergies:

For most people, a change of seasons signals the beginning of long, lazy days or cool, crisp evenings. Changing seasons can mean misery.

  • Sun Reactions of the Skin:

Most people's skin will burn if there is enough exposure to ultraviolet radiation. However, some people burn particularly easily or develop exaggerated skin reactions to sunlight.

  • Aspirin Allergy (Salicylate Allergy):

Salicylates are chemicals found naturally in plants and are a major ingredient of aspirin and other pain-relieving medications. They are also found in many fruits and vegetables as well as in many common health and beauty products.

  • Cosmetic Allergy:

Although cosmetics can help us feel more beautiful, they can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions. Certain ingredients used in cosmetics, such as fragrances and preservatives, can act as allergens, substances that trigger an allergic reaction.

  • Nickel Allergy:

A nickel allergy is a skin reaction that develops after exposure to nickel or items containing the metal.

  • Drug Allergy:

Many drugs can cause adverse side effects, and certain medicines can trigger allergic reactions. In an allergic reaction, the immune system mistakenly responds to a drug by creating an immune response against it.

  • Dust Allergy:

Life with dust allergies -- whether they're yours or a family member's -- comes with a load of questions. For instance, might a dust allergy explain your child's never-ending cold symptoms?

  • Chemical Allergy:

They promise to make your skin soft, your hair shiny, and your laundry springtime fresh, but for some people the chemicals in shampoos, cosmetics, and detergents trigger allergic skin reactions.

  • Penicillin Allergy:

A penicillin allergy is an allergic reaction that occurs when your body's immune system overreacts to penicillin antibiotics. A penicillin allergy is an allergic reaction that occurs when your body's immune system overreacts to penicillin antibiotics.

Diagnosis of Allergy:

Even if you think you know what's causing the allergic reaction, you may need to be tested to determine the exact allergen and get a definite diagnosis.

The type of test you are offered will depend on your symptoms, the condition of your skin and any medication you are taking. Possible tests include:

  • Skin prick test: This is usually the first test to be done when looking for an allergen. The skin is pricked with a tiny amount of the suspected allergen to see if there is a reaction. If there is, the skin around the prick will very quickly become itchy, red and swollen. Because the skin prick test introduces such a tiny amount of allergen into the skin, the testing is considered very safe and can be used on almost any age group, including babies. However, it may not be suitable if you have severe eczema or if you are taking antihistamines.
  • Blood test: This is used to measure the amount of IgE antibodies in your blood that have been produced by your immune system in response to a suspected allergen. The results are given on a scale from zero to six: zero indicates a negative result and six indicates an extremely high sensitivity. Blood tests are particularly useful when you are at risk of an extreme reaction or when a rare allergen is suspected.
  • Patch test. This test is used to find an allergen causing eczema (contact dermatitis). A small amount of the suspected allergen is added to special metal discs, which are then taped to your skin for 48 hours and monitored for a reaction.

Treatment of Allergy:

Homeopathic Treatment of Allergy:

Homeopathy is one of the most popular holistic systems of medicine. The selection of remedy is based upon the theory of individualization and symptoms similarity by using holistic approach. Allergies indicate a defective immune system and are considered in homeopathy as communication from the body that something is not right. Homeopathy believes that the allergen is just the trigger to the problem and not the underlying cause. Homeopathic treatment can remove the underlying cause for the allergic tendency and eliminate it completely.

An appropriately selected homeopathic remedy that is individually chosen to the totality of symptoms that the person is experiencing, not just the allergy symptoms, stimulates the body's vital force and immune system so that the body can heal itself. However, homeopathic medicines can also be used to treat the acute phase of an allergy. Homeopathic treatment is safe and gentle, without any side-effects. Homoeopathy medicines are prescribed on the basis of physical, emotional, and genetic make up that individualizes a person. Homeopathy is very effective in managing all the symptoms of allergies and also plays an important role in preventing relapse of the condition and improving the general health of the person.

Self care measures:

  • Keep family pets out of certain rooms, like your bedroom, and bathe them often.
  • Remove carpets or rugs from your room (hard floor surfaces don't collect dust as much as carpets do).
  • Get rid of items like heavy drapes that allow dust to build up.
  • Clean your house very frequently.
  • Use special plastic covers to seal pillows and mattresses if you're allergic to dust mites.
  • If you're allergic to pollen, keep windows closed and use AC’s. Don’t use fans since they can stir up dust.
  • Filter the air and clean air filters and air ducts frequently.
  • Change your clothing after being outdoors and air out damp clothes and shoes before storing.
  • Don’t leave wet clothes in the washer, remove them promptly.
  • Don’t hang clothes out in the backyard to dry, as pollen and molds may collect in them.
  • Don't mow lawns and do not collect too many indoor plants as soil encourages mold growth.
  • Keep damp areas such as basements, garages and bathrooms clean and dry.
  • Don't allow smoking in your house or in your car.
  • Make sure there is an exhaust fan over the stove to remove cooking fumes.

Other Treatments of Allergy:

Wherever possible, the most effective way of managing an allergy is to avoid all contact with the allergen.

Allopathic Medication:

Medication can't cure your allergy, but can be used to treat the common symptoms of an allergy, such as a runny nose, itchy mouth and sneezing.

  • Antihistamines:

Antihistamines treat allergies by blocking the action of the chemical histamine, which the body releases when it thinks it is under attack from an allergen. Antihistamines can be taken in tablet, cream or liquid form, or as eye drops or nasal sprays.Nasal sprays can be used to reduce swelling and irritation in your nose, and eye drops will help to relieve sore, itchy eyes.

  • Decongestants:

Decongestants help to relieve a blocked nose, which is often caused by hay fever, a dust allergy or a pet allergy. Decongestants can be taken as tablets, capsules, nasal sprays or liquids. They should not be used long-term.

  • Leukotriene receptor antagonists:

Leukotriene receptor antagonists are tablets that block the effects of leukotrienes, which are chemicals released during an allergic reaction that cause inflammation (swelling) of your airways. They are used to treat asthma when other treatments have failed, and as a supplement to steroid treatment.

  • Steroid sprays:

Corticosteroid sprays designed to act on the nasal lining and airways are effective in suppressing inflammation, particularly nasal congestion. Absorption into the body is minimal, so adverse side effects are avoided.

  • Hyposensitisation (immunotherapy):

Hyposensitisation works by gradually introducing more and more of the allergen into your body to make it less sensitive to it.

The allergens are usually given as injections under the skin of your upper arm. In the initial stages of treatment you will be given injections at intervals of a week or less, while allergen doses are gradually increased. When you reach the "maintenance dose", a dose that is effective in reducing your normal allergic reaction, you will need to continue to have injections of this dose every few weeks for at least two years.

Hyposensitisation is normally only recommended for the treatment of severe allergies (such as hay fever and pet allergies) that have not responded to other treatments, and for specific allergies such as bee and wasp stings.

This type of treatment must only be carried out under the close supervision of a doctor in a hospital, because there is a risk that it may cause a serious allergic reaction.

 

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