Allergies affect about every fifth person worldwide and occur when the immune system overreacts to typically harmless substances in the environment. Itching, sniffing and swollen airways are common symptoms, whereas food allergies can cause stomach problems.
To alleviate symptoms, it is important to avoid the trigger substance, but there are also medicines and treatments that can help relieve symptoms.
APPOTEK can help you with allergies that are not acute.
Pollen and animal fur are the most common triggers for allergy, but food allergies are also very common. Young children are often allergic to food such as cow’s milk protein and eggs, but usually outgrow this over time. Airborne allergies usually start at school age, but adults can also suffer.
When the body is exposed to an allergen, a hypersensitivity in the immune system causes histamine to be released into the mucous membranes. Then the blood vessels dilate and the mucous membrane swells, affecting the skin and respiratory tract. Usually this results in the nose and eyes being affected, but the reaction can also lead to rash and asthma.
Many allergens such as dust or pollen are airborne particles. In these cases, symptoms arise in areas in contact with air, such as eyes, nose, and lungs. For instance, allergic rhinitis, also known as hay-fever, causes irritation in the nose, sneezing, itching, and redness of the eyes. Inhaled allergens can also lead to increased production of mucus in the lungs, shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing.
Aside from these ambient allergens, allergic reactions can result from foods, insect stings, and reactions to medications like aspirin and antibiotics such as penicillin. Symptoms of food allergy include abdominal pain, bloating, vomiting, diarrhea, itchy skin, and swelling of the skin during hives. Food allergies rarely cause respiratory (asthmatic) reactions, or rhinitis. Insect stings, food, antibiotics, and certain medicines may produce a systemic allergic response that is also called anaphylaxis; multiple organ systems can be affected, including the digestive system, the respiratory system, and the circulatory system. Depending on the rate of severity, anaphylaxis can include skin reactions, bronchoconstriction, swelling, low blood pressure, coma, and death. This type of reaction can be triggered suddenly, or the onset can be delayed.
Bear in mind that symptoms such as itching or upset stomach do not necessarily mean that you are allergic. Both the skin and the stomach are sensitive and can react strongly, but temporarily to insect bites or variation in the diet, for example. Allergies however cause prolonged, recurrent symptoms.
Complications that may be similar to allergic symptoms:
Asthma – chronic respiratory tract inflammation that can be caused / worsened by allergens.
Atopic eczema – skin inflammation that produces dry and itchy skin (also called flexural eczema / child eczema that can be triggered by, for example, fish, milk, wheat flour and eggs).
Hyperreactive mucous membranes – hypersensitivity to, for example, smells and smoke that lead to sneezing and coughing
Insect bites – can cause severe, local reactions without an allergic reaction (only 1 in 100 are allergic to bee and wasp stings)
Lactose intolerance – when you react to milk sugar with gas formation and diarrhea.
Gluten intolerance (celiac disease) – an autoimmune response to protein in wheat, barley and rye that causes damage to the small intestinal mucosa.
Prevention and Protection
Avoiding allergens will help prevent symptoms. Allergies to the family pet can be controlled by removing the pet and finding it a new home. Exterminating cockroaches, mice and rats and a thorough cleaning can reduce symptoms of an allergy. Dust mites are attracted to moisture. They consume human skin that has been shed and lodged in furniture, rugs, mattresses, box springs, and pillows. Bedding can be covered with allergen-proof covers. Laundering clothing, bed linens and blankets with non-allergic powder will also reduce exposure.
Exposure to allergens outside the home can be controlled by using air conditioners. Washing hair, taking a bath or shower before bedtime, can help remove allergens that have been picked up from outside the home. If grass or grass pollen is an allergen, it is sometimes beneficial to remain indoors while grass is being cut or mowed. Children with allergies to grass can avoid playing in the grass to prevent allergic reactions. Staying out of piled leaves in the fall can also help. Pets returning into the home after being outdoors may track in allergens.
If you know what you are allergic to, you should firstly avoid the allergen that is causing your problems. If the reaction persists, both prescription-free and prescription drugs with antihistamine and cortisone are available to relieve symptoms.
If you have serious problems or do not know what is causing your allergy, a doctor can do an allergy examination. In case of severe allergies you can receive treatment in the form of an allergy vaccination, called allergen immunotherapy. Treatment often lasts for several years.
Allergic shock (anaphylaxis) requires emergency care. If you had a problem before and already have, for example, an adrenaline pen, it should be used while waiting for an ambulance.
When to consult a doctor
If you suspect that you are allergic and are not helped by prescription drugs, you should consult your doctor.
If you have symptoms suggestive of allergic shock (anaphylaxis) you need to call an ambulance. Seek medical attention immediately if you have:
- palpitations and chest pressure
- respiratory distress, abdominal pain
- faintness with hypotension
- cold hands and feet as a result of impaired blood circulation.
How APPOTEK can help
APPOTEK can help you with allergies that are not acute. A nurse or a physician can make an individual assessment based on your symptoms. After that, you may be prescribed treatment or referred for further examination. Bear in mind that if your child has a problem, they should see a doctor.
In case of allergic shock, always call an ambulance.