Your immune system is responsible for keeping you healthy by fighting harmful pathogens. It achieves this by attacking anything that your immune system believes may endanger your body. 

An allergy is a reaction of your immune system to a foreign substance that is not normally harmful to your body. These foreign materials are called allergens. Depending on the allergen, this response may include swelling, sneezing, and other symptoms.

Exposure to substances like flowers, dust, smoke, fur or a strong smell can cause your immune system to release certain substances known as antibodies. 

These antibodies act on your cells to produce histamine and other chemicals which mediate the allergy response in your body.

You may be allergic to certain factors, right from your childhood or you may develop them later in your life. 

Read further to know more about allergens and ways to deal with allergies.

What Are The Different Types of Allergens?

The two main types of allergens according to how they enter your body are: 

  • Inhalants. These are substances that you inhale through your nose which can cause irritation and initiate an allergic response. These particles can cause sneezing, runny nose, and nasal stuffiness. Other symptoms include wheezing, cough, or breathing difficulty.

  • Ingestants. These are substances that can cause an allergy when you eat or drink them, i.e., through the oral route. They usually cause stomach discomfort, bloating, flatulence (gas formed in the stomach) but can sometimes produce serious and life-threatening symptoms like sudden choking or breathing difficulty. 

What Are The Symptoms of Allergy?

The symptoms of allergy depend on the type of allergen. They can be:

  • Seasonal allergies. It is also called “hay fever”, and is an allergy that occurs during certain times of the year like the spring season. Its symptoms are:

    • Sneezing

    • Runny and congested nose

    • Itchy nose, and throat

    • Watery and itchy eyes

  • Food allergies. It occurs when your immune system identifies any certain food like peanuts, milk, etc., as an allergen. Its symptoms include:

    • Diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting

    • Hives (skin rash), eczema (red, inflamed skin), or itchy skin

    • Anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction leading to narrowing of your airways making it difficult to breathe)

  • Skin allergies. This can happen due to an insect bite or when your skin comes in contact with an allergen. It leads to:

    • Redness

    • Swelling

    • Hives

    • Pain in the sensitive areas

    • Itching

  • Drug allergies. Certain medicines may cause an allergic reaction in some people which is associated with:

    • Formation of hives

    • Wheezing (high-pitched sound caused by breathing difficulty)

    • Light-headedness

    • Vomiting

    • Swelling of your face or throat

What Are The Treatment Options For Allergies?

There is no one permanent cure for allergies. But there are many ways through which allergies can be managed. You may have to live with your allergies forever, but you can still control them and manage the symptoms. 

Here are a few ways to do that.

  • Medications. Depending on the severity of your allergy, medications can help reduce your immune response and alleviate the symptoms.Your doctor may advise you to take over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications, which is available as pills, syrups, nasal sprays, or eyedrops.

  • Immunotherapy. Also known as allergy shot therapy, it is recommended for severe allergies or allergies that are not responding to medications.This treatment consists of a series of injections of purified allergen extracts given over a period of a few years.

  • Home remedies and lifestyle modifications. Many natural remedies are marketed as treatments or even ways to prevent allergies.Combined with lifestyle modifications, they can help control and prevent symptoms of allergy. Some of them are:

  • Avoid allergens. Identify what is triggering your allergy and avoid that allergen. You can also take the help of your doctor to identify what is causing your allergy. They can do a procedure known as patch test in which patches of allergens are put on to your skin and studied for any allergic reaction. 

  • Rinse your sinuses (hollow, air-filled cavities in your skull). This can be done by saline nasal irrigation, i.e., flushing out thick mucus (thick slippery secretion) through your nose with a salt and water solution.

  • Use a high-efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA). This air filter can filter out dust particles in your house so that your nose does not get irritated.

  • Use dehumidifiers. It reduces moisture from your surroundings, especially from damp areas like the kitchen and bathroom which limits the growth of mould, which can cause allergies.

  • Try essential oils. They have anti-inflammatory properties that help in reducing swelling and redness associated with allergies.

  • Close your windows. If you have seasonal allergies then keeping your windows closed and staying indoors is a great way to avoid an allergic reaction from pollen grains and other environmental allergens.

  • Take shower as soon as you get home. Every time you enter your home, you bring a little bit of the outside environment with you. Shower and change your clothes once you are back home, to get rid of any allergens on your clothes, shoes, hair, and skin. Also, make sure to leave your shoes at the door.

  • Use a mask. Wearing a mask will keep allergens from entering your airways. It also protects you from other infectious diseases that can spread through respiratory droplets.

  • Drink plenty of water. If you are having a stuffy nose or a sore throat, then drinking warm fluids like tea and water can provide relief. Warm fluids increase the blood circulation in your body and also thin out the mucous so that it can be cleaned out easily.

A combination of home remedies and medicines will help in managing mild to moderate allergic reactions. However, in the case of severe allergies, seek medical attention immediately.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.