Allergies

  • Print Article |
  • Send to a Friend |
  • |
  • Add to Google |

Allergies are very common and one in every three people is likely to develop an allergy at some point in their lives.

An allergy is an allergic reaction that happens when our immune system decides not to cope with something that is normally harmless to our bodies and decides to overreact by creating antibodies.

The source of the reaction is called an allergen.

Allergies can be very personal since every person can react in different ways to the same allergen.

Whenever our bodies come into contact with the allergen, they will react and think it is harmful and will then release histamine into our bloodstream in order to fight it.

Allergic reaction explained:

1) When there is repeated exposure to allergens, the antibodies that have developed in response to them, attach themselves to mast cells, which contain histamine.

2) Once this happens, the allergens bind to two antibodies, causing the mast cells to burst and release the histamine into the body.
This is what causes the allergic reaction.

The symptoms of an allergy can range from a very minor reaction to a more serious one, and again that also depends on the individual.

An allergic reaction is not necessarily a reason to panic. Once the allergy has been identified, it can be controlled quite easily with treatment unless it becomes severe which means that the person will need urgent medical attention.

Do not let allergic reactions take control of your life!

It has come to become a fact that people are now 4 times as likely to develop an allergy than they were 20 years ago and that 40% of all young children suffer from at least one type of allergy all the way up to adulthood.

There is not a clear understanding on why do people develop allergies.
The recent rise in allergies could be due to a number of different factors, such as:

- There are now more new substances to be allergic to than there use to be.

- Warm and comfortable living conditions, encourage more allergens around us (e.g. dust mites).

- Less infectious childhood diseases leads to less protection against allergies in later life.

- Diets that are too high in fat and too low in healthy fruits and vegetables are connected to people developing allergies.

Allergies often run in the family. If either of your parents suffer from allergies, you have a chance of 1 in 3 of developing one yourself. If both parents suffer from allergies then the chances increases to 2 in 3.

Some examples of the most common allergens and symptoms are as follow:

ALLERGENS:

- Alcohol
- Feathers
- Insect bites and stings
- Foods (e.g. nuts, dairy produce, fish and seafood, gluten)
- House dust mites
- Man made materials (e.g. latex, medicines, nickel)
- Family pets
- Pollen

COMMON SYMPTOMS:

- Sore, red, itchy, watery eyes
- Sore, itchy, blocked nose
- Coughing and sneezing
- Dry, itchy throat
- Dry, itchy tongue
- Wheezing and shortness of breath
- Stomach upsets
- Itchy skin or rash
- Headaches

Pet Allergies:
One in every 10 people has an allergy to cats, dogs or other pets.
Pet allergy symptoms include sneezing, a runny nose, itchy and streaming eyes, itchy skin, rashes and breathing difficulties, or perhaps a combination of all of these.

An allergic reaction to pets can be caused by the slightest contact with pet dander (flakes of skin that are held on hairs), saliva or urine; all of whitecap be transported on clothes without the person coming into contact with the animal realising it.

The most common pet allergies are to cats, dogs, horses and guinea pigs but birds, rats, mice, rabbits and ferrets can also cause allergic reactions or problems.

The allergic reaction to animals is due to the proteins that caused by the pet allergen. They provoke cells in the body to produce histamine to “fight” them off.
This, then causes swelling in the upper airways and irritation to the skin, eyes, nose and throat.
Unfortunately, tobacco smoke, pollution, pollens and car fumes can make the symptoms worse.

Sadly, allergies to pets do not often occur immediately, so you may grow fond of your pet and then realise you have an allergy to it.

However if you suspect you suffer from allergies, is often best to arrange a blood or skin-prick test with your doctor at an allergy clinic to find out what exactly it is you are allergic to.

House dust mites:
House dust mites are tiny creatures that scavenge on discarded skin scales. Their droppings fly into the air or get deep into bedding, pillows, sofas and carpets.
When we touch them, dust flies into the air, we breath it in and the enzymes it contains trigger the immune system to react.

Damp and mould:
Mould spores can be found in our houses all year around.
They are normally found in damp, warm environments such as the bathroom, kitchen or even our beds.
They are sometimes hidden under wallpaper and around window frames, and can also be often found in houseplant soil.

Food Allergies and intolerances:
Food allergy can cause an exaggerated response by our immunes system, where food intolerances will cause adverse reactions every time that particular food is consumed.

Food allergies occur when the body’s immune system responds abnormally to a food protein or allergen. The body mistakens the food as “harmful” and the body reacts by producing antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE).
This triggers the release of chemicals such as histamine, which cause unpleasant symptoms.

Only 1% of adults and 3% of children suffer from real food allergies (food intolerances are more common).

As mentioned before, food allergies occur more usually in people who suffer from other allergies or whose parents happen to suffer from allergies too.

Most food allergic reactions are caused by the followed core foods:

- Cow’s milk -> Affect up to 7% of babies under a year. Symptoms are often mild but anaphylaxis can occur. Most children will outgrow it by the age of three.

- Eggs -> Most common in infants. Reaction is often mild but anaphylaxis can occur. About half of the infants will outgrow it by the age of three.

- Wheat (gluten-containing cereals) -> Even a gluten-free diet might not be suitable for sufferers.

- Peanuts -> Considered a life long allergy but it has recently discovered that some children outgrow it. The slightest amounts can trigger a reaction and cause anaphylaxis.

- Soya -> Occurs most commonly in children under two years. Symptoms are normally mild but can lead to anaphylaxis.

- Tree nuts ( e.g. walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts and hazelnuts) -> Normally a life long allergy. They can cause anaphylaxis

- Fish -> A life long allergy. It tends to affect adults more than children. Causes severe reactions, including anaphylaxis.

- Shellfish -> Another life long allergy. Some people can react even to the vapours from cooking shellfish. Reactions are often severe.

Children that suffer from allergies to milk, eggs and soya, will normally grow out of the allergy once the reach adulthood.

Food intolerance develop in both children and adults alike and the most common intolerances include:

- Milk and dairy produce (lactose intolerance)

- Gluten, a protein present in cereals (coeliac disease, this is when antibodies attack the body‘s own tissues, causing inflammation of the gut and symptoms such as nausea and diarrhoea. It does not involve IgE or histamine)

Symptoms of food allergies or intolerances can develop within hours or even minutes from exposure to the type of food and can be very dangerous.

With food allergies, when eating a particular type of food, abnormal allergic antibodies will be produced in the body and that will lead to an allergic reaction.

When suffering from food intolerances, no allergic antibodies will be produced. The intolerance will be provoked by the irritants, poisons, preservatives, colourants, caffeine or additives contained in the food.
The reaction to a food intolerance can also be caused by an inborn biochemical abnormality (e.g. intolerance to milk products) which is due to the inability of someone’s digestive system to brake down the lactose in milk.
Unlike with food allergies, in food intolerances the production of IgE is not involved in the reaction.

Possible symptoms for food allergies are:

- Nausea
- Diarrhoea, vomiting and wind
- Flushed face
- Itchy skin or rash
- Swelling of the lips
- Tingling sensation in the mouth or throat
- Itchy, dry throat and tongue
- Black eyes
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Loud bowel noises
- Runny nose or blocked nose
- Persistent, dry cough
- Sore, red, watery, itchy eyes
- Wheezing or shortness of breath

Possible symptoms for food intolerances are:

- Nausea
- Diarrhoea and vomiting
- Stomach aches, cramps or bloating
- Wind

To try and avoid such allergic reaction, try to find out what exactly it is that you are allergic to.
You might need to be referred to a specialist for a simple skin or blood test.

Avoidance is the best cure for food allergies and intolerances, a tiny amount of the “wrong” food can set off a reaction.

Stay clear of any foods that are similar to the ones you know you are allergic to (e.g. crab may set off the same reaction as lobster).

Mild food allergies can be treated with antihistamines but more severe reactions will require urgent medical attention.

Make sure that all family members and friends are aware of all of your food allergies and wear a special bracelet or information card that specifies all of the allergies.

Normally people that suffer from severe food allergies, have an adrenaline pen prescribed by their doctors.

TESTING FOR FOOD ALLERGENS:

Testing the skin (skin prick test): This is done by prickling or scratching the skin with an extract of the food.
The response will be redness and swelling. False positives are possible and there is a risk of anaphylaxis.

Testing by elimination diet: This is done by removing the allergy food that it is being suspected from the diet and substituting it with another type of food.
The response to this could make symptoms disappear, returning again when the food is reintroduced.
It requires medical supervision and false positives are possible. There is a risk of anaphylaxis.

Testing by using Radioallergosorbent (RAST) - Blood test : This is done by taking a blood sample and exposing it to the allergen and IgE (antibody) and measuring its activity.
The response to this test is measured by observing the IgE activity and there is no risk of anaphylaxis since is not done directly on the body. Unfortunately not all allergies cause IgE activity (e.g. coeliac disease).

ADVISE TO REDUCE EXPOSURE TO ALLERGENS:

If you are allergic to animals, do not keep any at home, but if you do, try to keep them outside or in a certain room in the house where you wont be so exposed to the allergen.
Make sure you wash them regularly (at least once a month) and dry them thoroughly afterwards, and make sure they stay away from the bedrooms, laundry and clothing.
Wash your hands every time you stroke an animal.
Ventilate your home thoroughly.

If you are allergic to house dust mites, buy a barrier cover for your bed since this will stop the dust mites escaping from the pillows, mattresses or duvets.
Wash all bedding at least once a week on a hot wash cycle.
Avoid soft toys whenever possible or otherwise (at least once a week) leave them in the freezer cabinet for a day before putting them in a hot wash and drying them thoroughly.
Cut down on furniture, especially upholstered items, and clutter (all these attract dust).
Keep all surfaces spotlessly clean and do not forget to damp-dust walls.
Get rid of carpets and wash rugs regularly.
Use metal or wooden blinds instead of fabric ones or curtains.
Vacuum your home, using a vacuum cleaner with a vortex system and air filters, and clean surfaces with a damp cloth twice a week.

If you are allergic to mould spores, getting rid of damp areas is the best option.
Treat damp areas on walls. Keep humidity indoors at 50% or less with a dehumidifier. Close doors or use extractors fans when cooking or showering, and do not dry clothes indoors.

If you are allergic to bees, wasp or hornets stings, these will cause pain as well as a reaction. Try to avoid insect bites by applying repellents.
Make sure to have medicines at home that will relieve the swelling and soreness caused by minor allergic reactions to bites and stings.

If you are allergic to foods, children under the age of five are more likely to suffer from them.
If your parents, brothers or sisters have allergies it is advisable to avoid peanuts and nuts during pregnancy, while breast-feeding and until your child is three years old.
If you child suffers from food allergies, make sure that teachers and parents of friends know about it and advise them on what to do if a reaction occurs.

Warning: Never ignore and allergic reaction. Allergies can be fatal if they become severe!

Article Rating (5 stars):
  • article full star
  • article full star
  • article full star
  • article full star
  • article full star
Rate this Article:
  • Article Word Count: 2200
  • |
  • Total Views: 202
  • |
  • permalink
  • Print Article |
  • Send to a Friend |
  • |
  • Add to Google |
>