ALLERGIES

Allergies are a widely common medical condition.  They occur when the immune system reacts to a foreign substance that doesn’t cause a reaction in most people.  These foreign substances, called allergens, are identified by antibodies in the immune system as being harmful.  When contact is made with an allergen, the immune system may overreact in a variety of ways, anywhere from mild irritation to life-threatening anaphylaxis.

 

Types of Allergies

 

Since our bodies come into contact with countless substances during any part of the day, there are many different types of allergies.  The type of allergy a person has is one factor that determines the symptoms they experience.  Some of the most common types of allergies and their symptoms include:

  • Food allergies can cause swelling, hives, fatigue, nausea, among other symptoms. Serious reactions may require the attention of a medical professional. Some people may also experience reactions that show up on the skin such as rashes, Eczema, or hives.

  • Seasonal allergies are often referred to as Hay fever and can mimic symptoms of a cold  (i.e. sinus congestion, runny nose, swollen eyes).

  • Severe allergies can cause the life-threatening emergency of anaphylaxis.  Symptoms of this include difficulty breathing, lightheadedness, and unconsciousness.

  • Contact dermatitis occurs when a person’s skin comes into direct contact with an allergen. Symptoms for these types of allergies include red, itchy patches of skin.

 

Causes

 

            It is still unknown as to why allergies occur and why the immune system may produce antibodies against certain substances.  When a person is exposed to an allergen, the antibodies can release chemicals, such as histamine, that can lead to an allergic reaction.  There is a chance that allergies can be genetically passed from parents to their children, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be.  Other risk factors could include being a child and/or if another allergic condition is present.

 

Common allergens may include:

 

  • Plants and plant products such as pollen, grass, weeds, trees, poison ivy, and poison oak.

  • Animal products that include pet dander and dust mite waste.

  • Drugs including penicillin and sulfa drugs.

  • Foods, most commonly wheat, nuts, milk, shellfish, and eggs.

  • Insect stings and bites such as bees, wasps, and mosquitoes.

  • Mold which includes airborne spores.

  • Others.  Latex and certain metals, such as nickel, can also cause a reaction in some people.

 

Treatments

 

Allergies can be treated with

 

  • Over-the-counter medications (i.e. Benadryl, Zyrtec, Claritin)

  • Immunotherapy that involves injections over time to help the body get used to the allergen.

  • Emergency epinephrine

  • Natural remedies that may include teas and essential oils.

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