You may be one of the masses who don’t even realize that you have allergies! According to studies, there are about 17 out of every 100 Americans that are allergic, or hypersensitive, to some substances which are known to cause unusual reactions.
What are allergies? According to Wikipedia, “an allergy is a condition of hypersensitivity to a substance (an allergen) considered harmless to most people.” Hmmm, most people? In fact, 50 million Americans are estimated to have allergies.
There is no clear apparent medical reason why people contract allergies, but one thing remains clear: the condition is indiscriminate in its coverage and may affect us regardless of age, gender, or race. Commonly, however, the allergy manifests in our infancy or childhood, although some symptoms may appear at any age or may reappear after any period of apparent inactivity.
Most allergies are largely insignificant and may be dealt with by simple lifestyle choices; however, there is a possibility of them either adversely affecting our daily life, or perhaps life-threatening conditions.
As of this writing, if you run a Google search on the word “allergy” you will receive over 32 million results. Sure, some of those are duplicates but that’s a pretty substantial number. And that doesn’t include other simple search terms.
The bottom line here is that those 50 million Americans already know they have an allergy. That doesn’t include all the people who are under the misconception that their suffering is not just a simple cold!
How would you know if you have an allergy?
Below are the most common types of allergies.
– Food Allergies – ignited by certain food types
– Anaphylaxis – triggered by drugs, food, or insect stings
– Respiratory Allergies – triggered by allergens which are airborn
– Contact Allergies – triggered by skin-affecting allergens
– Insect Sting Allergies – triggered by insect venom
– Tingling, itching, or swelling of your mouth, tongue, lips, or throat
– Tightness feeling in your throat
– Difficulty speaking or swallowing
– Indigestion and abdominal cramps
– Vomiting and diarrhea
– Skin rashes
– Coughing, congestion, wheezing, or sneezing
– Runny, stuffy, or itchy nose
– Breathing difficulties
– Sweating, dizziness, and faintness
– Rapid or sudden heart rate increase
– Sudden inability or hoarseness to speak
– Extreme and sudden facial itching and swelling
What Causes Allergies?
The immune system of a person with an allergy tries to combat allergens. It looks upon the small driftwood of everyday life – house dust, pollen, animal dander, and mold – as outsiders that are sure to do some dreadful damage.
In order to recognize and capture these strangers, it is important that people know who the culprits are. They should try to educate themselves on how allergies work and what causes them because these are the only means to find the solution to the problem.
Basically, allergies are agitated reactions of the immune system to certain foreign substances to the human body. These stuffs are known as “allergens.”
Allergens are then classified into four categories based on where they have come from. By knowing these four classifications of allergens, an individual could identify where he is allergic.
Normally, if a person is having persistent allergic symptoms, but he cannot isolate the allergen, it is a good idea to see an allergist, get tested, and find out what the allergens are. In this way, people can easily find out what causes their allergy and resolve the problem.
Who is at risk for allergies?
Among all known diseases, allergies are placed among the most universally manifesting diseases among humans. It does not discriminate among the individuals to be infected. People of all ages, gender, culture, nationality and skin color have equal chances of developing them.
Through the study of allergies and allergic attacks, it is apparent that some individuals have a higher probability of acquiring an allergic condition compared to other individuals exposed to the same particle.
Each age level is particularly prone to a certain allergen. This fact should provide you with an idea on how you can at least minimize, if not perfectly avoid, the attack of allergy.
Research shows that 7 to 8 out of 10 newly born infants have a large predisposition in acquiring hypersensitivity to anything in their surroundings. Moreover, 1 out of 7 American adults suffer from at least one type of allergic condition.
Some even develop allergic reactions among substances used in clothing such as color dyes and bleaching chemical agent (contact dermatitis) and other forms of medications such as penicillin and other antibiotics (drug hypersensitivity).
Some young adults who have experienced lesser attacks or were not put into any allergic state earlier in their life are apt to develop such condition should adequate trigger attacks (allergen particles) are present.
What are seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergies are one type of allergic rhinitis. If you recall our chapter on allergic rhinitis you know that it is a type of allergy where breathing in an allergen becomes the source of an inflammatory reaction in the membranes of the nose. With this seasonal allergy, inflammation happens only during a particular period. This is most likely caused by molds, pollens, or other substances that are in the air during specific seasons.
What treatments are available for different types of allergies?
Allergies affect almost everyone since almost anything can trigger an allergic reaction. These reactions are caused by the immune system over-reacting to an allergen or the substance that causes the allergy. These reactions range from violent sneezing to itchy hives or in a more serious form, breathing difficulties.
To address these reactions, the first line of defense is avoiding allergens that cause these allergic symptoms. Minimizing your exposure to allergens will translate less episodes of sneezing, coughing and itching.
But since avoidance isn’t possible at all times, your doctor can prescribe allergy medications and treatments, the correct kind and combination of which depends on the kind of symptoms you exhibit. Allergy medications come in pill, liquid, spray, eye drop and topical forms. Some can be bought over-the-counter while others require prescriptions.
Always remember though that in taking medications whether OTC (over-the-counter) doctor-prescribed, consult with your doctor and inform him/her of your medical history before starting any allergy treatments.
Histamines are chemicals released by the immune system as part of the reaction to an allergen. This substance is responsible for the inflammation or swelling of nasal passage, the skin or any other part affected by an allergy. As the name suggests, antihistamines prevent histamines to cause such reactions reducing redness, swelling, hives and watery eyes. They are prescribed in the form of liquids, sprays, pills and drops.
With the exception of some OTC creams, corticosteroids require a doctor’s prescription. Forms of corticosteroids include:
– Eye drops relieve symptomatic itching and redness of the eyes due to hay fever. Contra-indications include eye infections, glaucoma, and pregnancy. So if any of these apply to you, avoid using corticosteroid eye drops. Contact lens users are also more susceptible to eye infections when using these eye drops.
Since it is administered directly to the affected area, nasal sprays are the preferred treatment for hay fever or allergic rhinitis to relieve stuffiness, runny nose and sneezing. However, relief may take time to set in and in some cases, only after regular use. Some of the side effects are an unpleasant taste, irritation that may cause nose bleeding especially during the winter months.
– Creams that come in varying strengths of dosages are good for itching and scaling skin. However, be cautious of continued use as they can sometimes cause skin irritation.
– Oral corticosteroids are prescribed for short periods to address more acute forms of allergic symptoms. But the long-term use of such has been known to cause side effects like cataracts and osteoporosis so prescription is regulated.
These medicines work similarly to antihistamines in that they block the substances released by your immune system to aggravate allergic reactions. Leukotriene modifiers have been proven to treating allergic asthma and rhinitis.
Anaphylactic shock is a violent allergic reaction that affects key body functions such as the respiratory and cardiovascular system. This kind of reaction is similar to throwing a monkey wrench into a machine that puts the system in jeopardy. The danger of that kind of reaction is therefore very high.
If your condition doesn’t see improvement in spite of medications or if taking them will incur adverse side effects, your doctor may recommend immunotherapy, which is the process of training your immune system not to react to substances that used to cause allergies for you. This can take as long as three to five years to finish. It is done by introducing extracts of the allergen into your body through a series of regulated injections. The goal is to make your body desensitized to the substance, which will eliminating or decrease your need to take medicines.
This method is especially effective for people allergic to substances that are found everywhere and cannot be avoided (such as dust and pollen). The procedure is also helpful in arresting the development of asthma in children.
A lot of people nowadays turn to a holistic health lifestyle and rally for natural remedies like homeopathy or herbs to recover from certain illnesses. Natural remedies or alternative medicine encompasses a number of non-traditional ways for a healthier lifestyle.
Some of these natural remedies are:
Apitherapy is one of the natural remedies which makes use of bee products to help someone recover from a certain illness or condition. There are about 500 diseases that Apitherapy can heal.
2. Applied Kinesiology
Applied kinesiology can pinpoint body dysfunctions by identifying weak muscles.
Aromatherapy is the science of using essential plant oils for the betterment of one’s well-being.
The most common carrier oils are: sweet almond, olive, avocado, borage, apricot kernel, cocoa butter, sunflower, evening primrose, peanut, grape seed, hazelnut, sesame, jojoba, kukui, macadamia nut, pecan, rose hip, and shea butter.
Considered the oldest health care system in the world that originated from India, Ayurveda stems from three biological principles: Vata which is the regulation of movement, Pitta for regulation of metabolism and Kapha for structure.
Biofeedback is one of the natural remedies that use the body’s signals for the improvement of health.
Bodywork employs deep tissue massage, balance of energy and movement awareness to improve one’s health. It does not necessarily involve body touch but it takes care of the body’s healing response.
One of the natural remedies to watch out for is buteyko which involves breathing exercises to help asthmatic people.
8. Chinese Medicine
Chinese medicine has always been known as one of the most popular natural remedies. Chinese Medicine is rooted from the Taoist belief – the law of Yin and Yang. The person will experience less illness if the Yin and Yang is well-balanced.
Chinese medicine is famous for its herbs like the Ren Shen, Dang Gui, Dan Shen, Mu Li, Du Huo and Fang Feng.
One cannot talk about Chinese medicine without mentioning acupuncture. Acupuncture is able to diagnose the illness by the flow of Qi (energy).
9. Color Therapy
Color Therapy uses the spectrum to enhance the energy center or Chakra of the body and also improve the body’s healing process.
10. Flower Essences
Dr. Edward Bach discovered in 1930 that flowers contain energy that can put human discord to an equilibrium.
11. Gemstone Therapy
There is such a thing as a healing gemstone that can alleviate ill body conditions. A gemologist must be consulted as “synthetic gems” are useless.
Natural remedies are immediately associated with herbs. Herbs are classified into aromatic, astringent, bitter, mucilaginous and nutritive. Proven to improve health, herbs are great sources of vitamins and minerals. Vitamin A can be found in alfalfa, saw palmetto and dock, whereas bee pollen, juniper berry and peppermint are rich in Vitamin C. For one’s calcium fix, there’s aloe vera and fennel seed.
Homeopathy involves the use of active ingredients in small doses together with natural substances for a healthier balance.
Iridology is diagnosing through the irises, as they are human parts that show signs of physical and mental illnesses.
Macrobiotics is achieving over-all wellness by changing one’s lifestyle, diet and attitude. It comes from the words macro which means great, and bios which means life.
What can be more natural than just looking for a quiet spot and muse deeply on series of subjects that will eventually lead to enlightenment? Stress is dramatically reduced and the body is recharged by deeply meditating.
18. Music Therapy
Music is language of the soul, so it is not surprising that there is such a thing as music therapy. So far, music therapy has incurred differences and benefits to people who practiced it. This is a fortified healthcare profession that is designed to do the following: promote well-being, express emotions, manage and combat stress, improve memory and alleviate aches and pains.
Naturopathic medicine’s principles are based on the belief that natural balances make up for a well-balanced internal chemistry.
With those effective natural remedies, it is no wonder a lot of people have started employing each one of them in times of sickness. Most go for natural remedies just to maintain their healthy bodies.
Avoiding Allergic Reactions
Most allergens attack and trigger allergic reaction if they find themselves on the skin or inside the eye. Allergic reactions can happen through inhalation, ingestion or injectionand, as discussed previously, allergies can be seasonal as with the case of the hay fever or it can be drug or dust-induced and food-related.
The production of an antibody called immunoglobulin happens upon the first exposure to an allergen. This immunoglobulin or (IgE) attaches itself to basophiles, a type of white blood cell and mast cells. The initial exposure may have a person extrasensitive to allergen but the symptoms may not be there. Subsequent exposures can eventually lead to more reactions and tissue irritations. Reactions can be mild or severe.
Avoiding an allergy simply translates to one commonsense fact: avoid the allergen. This means the person has to discontinue using a drug, have the dust removed, put the pet outdoors, install effective air filters and simply avoid eating a particular food. If the allergy is severe, the person may consider moving out and finding a place that does not contain the allergen.
Here are more ways to prevent an allergic reaction:
1. Ask the doctor for an allergy kit.
An allergy kit is used for severe allergic reactions, also called anaphylaxis. The kit must have the following: how-to’s on using the kit, sterilized cotton swabs for cleansing the skin before and after the injection, Epinephrine which comes in a syringe and some Antihistamine tablets.
Remember that the medications inside an allergy kit may lose their efficacy if exposed to direct sunlight or high temperature. The patient must watch out for the color of Epinephrine. It must be clear. Once it turns pinkish brown, it must be thrown away.
2. You must wear a medical ID tag if you are susceptible to serious reaction so other people are alerted your allergy.
3. There must be a thorough discussion on allergy shots or immunotherapy with the doctor.
Allergy shots can reduce or totally ward off one’s sensitivity to an allergen. These shots are for the following allergies:
1. Pollen (trees, grasses and even ragweed)
2. Dust motes and cockroaches.
3. Dander from dogs and cats
5. Insect venom (from bees, hornets, wasps, yellow jackets and fire ants)
As children are more susceptible to allergic reactions, the parent must exert extra effort to keep any allergic reaction at bay. Schools are often considered breeding ground for allergens so the parent and school administrators must work hand in hand. The home must also be allergen-proof so the children can go about freely.
Allergic reactions are dangerous and fatal, if left untreated or if the person is more susceptible than usual. It is mandatory that preventive measures must be carried out to avoid the severe symptoms. For more information on allergic reactions, one must ask the family doctor.