What is an Allergy?
Allergy is a hypersensitivity reaction mediated by IgE antibodies. Normal harmless substances like pollen and food can cause the immune system to defend the body against it. In an allergic reaction, the antibodies can release a chemical called histamine, which is the primary cause of allergic symptoms. The severity of allergy differs from person to person and can range from mild irritation to anaphylaxis.
What are the different types of allergies?
The substances that cause allergic reactions are allergens. Following are few of the allergens:
- Drugs or medications
- Insect bites- bees/wasp
- Animal dander
- Household chemicals
- Metals such as nickel, cobalt, zinc, etc
What are the treatment options for allergy?
Following are a few of the treatment options of allergy:
- Avoiding allergen
- Immunotherapy treatment
How can an allergy be diagnosed?
Initially, the doctor asks the patient about his food habits, medication, and medical history. Following tests may be suggested by the doctor:
- Skin test - a small prick will be made on the skin and exposed with the believed allergy-causing substance. If a small bump occurs at the site then the allergic reaction to that particular allergen is confirmed.
- Blood test - a blood sample is tested for an indication of sensitivity to possible allergens. This is a radioallergosorbent test (RAST), that measures the amount of immunoglobulin E antibodies to specific allergens in the blood.
What are the symptoms of allergic reactions?
The severity of symptoms can vary depending on the allergen. Some of the symptoms include:
- Itchy and runny nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Red patches
What is allergic rhinitis?
When the body comes in contact with an allergen it releases a natural chemical called histamine that defends allergen. This chemical can cause allergic rhinitis that leads to inflammation of the nose. Symptoms include sneezing, a runny nose, itchy nose or throat, and watery eyes. Treatment includes taking antihistamines that block the production of histamines. Eye drops, and nasal sprays are used to relieve symptoms.
What is anaphylaxis?
A severe life-threatening allergic reaction leads to anaphylaxis. It can occur within seconds to minutes when exposed to an allergen. Certain foods, medications, insect venom, and latex are common triggers for anaphylaxis. It can cause a series of symptoms such as rash, low pulse, and shock, which is anaphylactic shock. Seek an immediate consultation with the doctor as it requires treatment of epinephrine. If anaphylaxis isn’t treated immediately it can lead to fatal and may cause death.