An allergy is an adverse response of our immune system towards any foreign particles which normally does not cause any reaction in most people. Allergic or atopic reaction occurs to the normally harmless substance called as the allergens. People may face allergy from pollen grains, dust, peanuts, shell fish, mold spores, medicines and every other thing. The allergen can cause severe reaction in some people when some don’t even recognize the allergen as a foreign object and can use it or inhale it without any difficulty or side effects. Allergy can be very mild in some or it can even be life threatening in a few cases. The main cause of allergy can be genetic and hereditary, viruses or bacteria or other environmental factors.
The symptoms of different allergies can vary widely. They can be very mild and easily treated or can even be very serious and life threatening. A mild allergic symptom includes rashes, congestion, watery eyes and running nose; these symptoms do not spread to other parts of the body. Some symptoms like itchiness and difficulty in breathing can be included in moderate allergic symptoms and can spread to other parts of the body. The most serious and rarest of all allergic symptoms is anaphylaxis which can even lead to the death of the patient. It is marked by difficulty in breathing, swelling of body parts, abnormality in heart beat, mental confusion, and drop of blood pressure or loss of consciousness.
Allergy can be of four different types based on the source and mode allergen and where particularly the allergy is produced. Food allergy, insect sting allergy, contact allergy and respiratory allergy are four broad classes of allergy.
Any food protein with can trigger an immunological response in sensitized person is called food allergy. Allergy to food can cause reactions like diarrhea, nausea, irritation of throat, itchy skin or even anaphylaxis is some extreme cases.
Six to eight percent of children and around four percent of adults are allergic to one or the other food items. The most common types of food allergy are sea food allergy, soy allergy, and allergy to egg, shell fish, nuts, milk protein, wheat and peanuts. Some are even allergic to rice, red meat, fruits like apple, peaches, pears and jackfruits though these allergies are a bit rare.
Many insect of the order of hymenoptera like bees, fire ants and wasps are capable of injecting venom into the body. Normally the insect stings cause temporary redness, swells and itchiness in the site of bite, but in some people allergic responses may be triggered. The allergic response to insect venom can be very mild or even be anaphylactic and can cause death. Thousands of people die each year from insect sting, ususlly from bees and wasp sting.
Allergic reaction caused by usually harmless substances like jewelry, cloths, pets and plants. Skin contact with low molecular weight substances and like metal and even fragrance can cause contact dermatitis (allergic eczema). The symptoms are usually burning, redness, itching and blisters at the affected area. Contact dermatitis is more common in smaller children but older kids and adults do show certain contact allergic symptoms.
The allergy or elevated response to any substance inhaled may come under respiratory allergy. These includes allergy to dust, pollen, mold spores, dust mites, human skin particles and fabric fibers. The symptoms of dust allergy are runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing and wheezing; most associated with respiratory system. The air borne allergy can also cause asthma and shortness of breath.
The allergy can be treated by medication, immunotherapy or avoidance.
Medication Anti histamine is the most commonly used medicine in all sorts of allergy from skin allergy to pet allergy. It is the first line of allergic treatment, and is available even in supermarkets. The older version of anti histamine had side effects and caused drowsiness in the patient but with the advent of the second generation anti histamine, this drawback has been overcome. Decongestants, cortisone, cromogylate and steroid nasal sprays are other antagonistic drugs which are used to block the action of allergic mediators or prevent the de granulation and activation of cells.
Immunotherapy: this treatment includes injection of progressively increasing doses allergen extract. These extracts can desensitize the person so that the body does not produce any allergic response in the future if it comes in contact with the same allergen. Another approach is the injection of anti Ig E monoclonal antibodies which can disrupt the Ig E antibodies responsible for causing allergic reactions. These immunotherapy treatments may take about six to ten months to start showing some result and it may take up to three years to overcome the symptoms completely.
Avoidance: avoiding the allergen is a very effective way to treat the disease. We can prevent the allergy by observing avoidance to the particular allergens.
Knowing the origin and cause of allergic reaction is the first step towards its prevention. Knowing the allergen, one can avoid the use of the substance like the particular food, metal or drugs. It is difficult to avoid the contact with air born allergen like dust and pollen grains, but we can try to limit the exposure to the allergen by keeping the home environment dust free and dry. And reduce the exposure outdoors by covering the nose and mouth whenever going out to polluted places. Cromolyn sodium and vitamin c can be used to prevent allergic reactions. Recent studies have proved that breast feeding can reduce the risk of allergy than in bottle fed children.
Allergy is a very complicated immunological response, knowing your allergy properly and treating it affectively can relieve most of the symptoms and allow you to lead a very normal life.