Articles on allergy

How Exactly Do You Define Allergies?

Dr. K R Bharath Kumar Reddy, Pulmonologist
Allergy is the exaggerated reaction of the body of an individual to substances that are generally harmless to most people. This reaction is brought about by the body's immune system. The body immediately produces chemicals in response to these particles which result in the various symptoms of allergy.   These foreign particles which trigger the reactions are known as 'allergens' and the tendency to develop these reactions is called as 'atopy'. The individual is usually genetically predisposed to react in such an inappropriate way to these foreign particles, and not everyone exposed to these will react the same way. Allergies can affect any part of the body, however, the most common organs involved are the skin, upper airway, lower airway, gastrointestinal tract and eyes.In a predisposed person, when the allergen first enters the body, the body first produces a substance called 'IgE antibody'. This binds to immune cells called the 'Mast cells' and stimulates them to release inflammatory substances. Now the person is considered 'sensitized' to this allergen. When this person is exposed again to the same allergen, these Mast cells immediately recognises it and reacts by producing more inflammatory substances. This is what we call an 'allergic reaction'.Depending on the organ it affects, people with allergy can present with red and watery eyes, recurrent colds and blocked nose, cough and wheezing, skin rashes or vomiting. Hence it is important to identify the allergic reaction and treat it with medicines which reduced this inflammatory reaction of the body.It is also important to identify which allergens cause these problems with a allergy test so that avoiding them can prevent such responses again.

Why Is 'Everything Around Me' Adding to My Allergy Woes?

Mrs. Anju Chandna, Yoga and Naturopathy
Allergy sufferers are unanimous on the issue of ‘change of season’. Be it professionals, doctors, businessmen, mothers, teachers, students, grandparents - you name it and everyone thinks that for all their health problems and those of their kin, relating to cough, cold, allergies, fevers, aches etc. the weather is to blame. Poor weather!It’s easy to understand why people blame getting sick on the weather. There are times of year when everyone around us seems to be suffering from some kind of an allergy. It could manifest itself in the form of eczema eruptions on the skin or allergic and dry cough or show up in the form of asthmatic symptoms, or sneezing & sniffling, runny nose, clogged sinuses or itchy skin.But can frequent weather changes between hot/cold days really make people sick? Illnesses occur at all times, at different times in the year, whether in February, May or September but often get attributed to the weather. Now some food for thought. Isn’t it more likely that the infection that you caught beginning of summer was not from the weather but your carelessness to wear a sweater while it was still cold in the evening? Or that the coughing that caught you unawares was not sent from the sky but from the ice cream you had in the beginning of winter? So can we safely believe that allergies are caused by ignoring the indications of the weather, not dressing up appropriately to suit weather conditions or eating something not recommended for you?If the answer is YES, then our life becomes easier. Because then we can surely avoid the allergy by avoiding all triggers that could lead to the allergy. But sadly this is not so simple. The answer is complicated.Occurrence of allergies has been increasing at a phenomenal rate throughout the world. What is it that has catapulted allergy to the position of a global epidemic. Apart from declining air quality and rising pollution levels in many parts of the world, the primary reason that comes to the fore is Lifestyle. We eat fast foods, we eat processed foods, we go to sleep late, we get up late, we sit in our closed office spaces the whole day through, go only to gyms for exercise, worse still we don’t exercise at all and to make matters worse all of this is done in an environment that can easily be termed as ‘stressful’. Are we still looking for reasons to develop an allergy? How is it related to allergy? Let me start in the reverse order with stress. Stress can trigger an allergy and also aggravate it. I will discuss this in greater detail in my next write up.Fast foods are low on water content and vitamins. Eating fast food lowers body immunity like nothing else ever could. Processed foods have chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions in people. Faulty sleeping habits or lack of proper sleep gives less time to the body to repair itself thereby lowering body immunity. Low immunity makes the body more susceptible to allergies. Sitting in closed spaces throughout the day in air-conditioned offices dries out the fluids from the body including the mucous membranes of the nose making it weak so it cannot protect against viruses entering your nasal passages. Not to forget the stress such closed spaces can do to your mind with too much positive ionization all around. And yes Gyms. With everyone sweating profusely, gyms can serve as a haven for all kinds of infection-causing microbes if proper care is not taken to clean the equipment. Exercising in a closed space with barely any inlet for fresh air attracts dust mites and people with sensitive airways might be allergic to it. So what is the solution? The solution lies in fighting not the allergy but the root cause of allergy. In all my write ups about allergy I never forget to mention the fact that allergy is not a disease on its own. It is our body’s reaction to the environment. So lets look for a simple solution to the complex problem of allergy. Start by eating fresh. No saturated fats, no junk food, no excess carbs. Lots of water and fruits so that your system is cleansed of toxins. Sleep is a wonder drug. Its miraculous healing properties for both body and mind are irreplaceable. It’s a stress booster too. Remember allergies and stress go hand in hand. Exercising in gyms is okay but exercising outside in the fresh air is wonderful. The effects of negative ionization cannot be undermined. A walk in the open after a day’s long work is the best tonic for your body and mind. So enhance your body immunity and say goodbye to your allergy woes forever! Salt therapy is an effective therapy for enhancing body immunity by cleansing your lungs the natural way with no side effects!

Skin Conditions Associated With Food Allergies

Dr. Rashmi Joshi, Dermatologist
‘Allergy’ in simple language is an exaggerated reaction of our immunity to a substance that is otherwise harmless. Food allergy is a condition that occurs when your body cannot tolerate some specific food proteins. Common food allergy causing agents are eggs, milk, soy, peanuts, fish, wheat, etc. When an allergy-causing agent is consumed for the first time, the immune system responds to it by generating specific antibodies. However, when the same allergen is consumed again, these antibodies release histamine to fight against the allergic substance much quicker and this histamine affects the skin, respiratory system, and other systems of the body.Urticaria/hivesSkin condition due to food allergy can be in the form of skin rash or hives also known as urticaria. Urticaria are typically red, swollen, itchy and sometimes stingy too. Due to the allergic reaction, swelling may appear under the skin, known as angioedema, which is generally associated with hives, but can occur on its own too. The swelling is generally seen around the eyes and lips and at times can even affect hands, feet and throat. A severe allergic reaction is rare and is a medical emergency, as the person could go into an anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal. Anaphylactic shock is characterized by difficulty in breathing due to intense swelling within the throat along with other symptoms of allergy.EczemaAnother common skin condition associated with food allergies is eczema. There is a strong correlation between the two. It has been seen that infants with eczema have a tendency of developing food allergy later in life. Occasionally, some food items have also been known to trigger eczema. It is very difficult to pinpoint a particular food item that may be causing an allergic reaction as our diet includes varied ingredients. The doctor may advise to stay away from general allergy-causing food items so as to rule them out. In addition,a blood test can also be performed to check for levels of antibodies that can be related to specific food allergies. The doctor may perform an allergy skin test, alsocalled a scratch test, to identify the substances that are causing your allergysymptoms.Management of skin conditionsThe best treatment for food allergies is to stay away from allergy-causing food items. However, when suffering from an allergy, keep in mind that mild rashes subside on their own. Do not scratch these rashes. You can apply cold water or rub ice on hives for instant relief. Besides, oral antihistamines help in relieving itching and congestion. In case of severe reactions, corticosteroids, like prednisone, help in reducing swelling. In fatal conditions, like anaphylactic shock,an epinephrine injection should be given immediately to reverse the symptoms. In case of eczema, withdrawal of allergen alone does not help, medications and local applications are needed for complete treatment.

Understanding Allergy

Dr. Loknath Kumar, General Physician
Introduction to AllergyAllergy is a heightened sensitivity to a foreign substance that causes the body’s defense system to overreact when defending itself. Normally the immune system would react if a harmful substance such as bacteria attacks the body. For people with Allergies,their immune system are working too hard and react with relatively harmless substances such as pollen. The severity of an allergic reaction can vary from mild discomfort to life threatening situation.  AllergenAn Allergen is a substance that can cause   an allergic reaction. Individuals who do not react to the allergen are said to be tolerant, whereas those who react are labelled as Allergic or Atopic individuals.                             Clinical features of AllergyThe spectrum of Allergic reactions is summarized below:Skin: Eczema, Atopic Dermatitis, Psoriasis, Urticaria, AngiodermaEyes: ConjunctivitisNose & Sinuses: Rhinitis, SinusitisGastro-Intestinal Track: Food AllergyLungs: Asthma, BronchitisEntire Body: Anaphylaxis                                                                          Diagnosis of AllergyIgE Mediated Allergic reactions can be diagnosed either by Skin prick test or Blood test IgE.Non-IgE Mediated reactions are diagnosed by avoiding exposure to the allergen followed by re-exposure to the allergen.Management of Allergies & possibilities of Boosting ImmunityConventional: Allergen avoidance, Symptomatic treatment, Allergen Immuno TherapyNatural Therapy: Pranayama / Breathing Exercises, Salt Room Therapy, Light exercise like Walking, Combination of these.Avoidance of the Allergen is the best way of management of Allergies. However, this is practically not possible.Natural Therapies opens up a whole new possibility for patients suffering from Chronic Allergic conditions.

Homeopathy Treatment for Allergy

Dr. Rangadhar Satapathy, Homeopath
An allergy is the hyper immune reaction of a person to some proteins in our environment, such as those found in pets, dust mites, pollens, food proteins which though normally harmless for other person. In other words the immune system of an allergic persons is hypersensitive to some substances whereas the same substances does not put any impact on the immune system of a normal person when do expose to them. In our daily life we are exposing lot of foreign substances in the form of chemicals,pollutants, dusts, viruses, pollens, some food proteins which act as an antigen or allergens. Those antigens or allergens when enters inside body our immune cells recognize them and eliminate them out. Our immune cells like T cells (Tlymphocyte) and B cells (B lymphocytes) play the major role to perform this task.  In a normal person when those antigen or allergen enter inside the body the immune system eliminate them without reacting anyway, but an allergic person of hypersensitive immune system reacts to those substances vigorously. A person of hypersensitive immune system,the B cells induces the inflammatory tissue reaction called allergic reaction when comes in contact to those antigens or allergens. The B cells of a sensitized immune system when detect any such foreign protein or antigen produce certain substances called IgE antibody. In our body there are some cells called mastcells. Those mast cells contain some granules called histamine and heparin. Aroundthe surface of mast cells numerous receptor are found called FC receptors towhich the IgE antibody binds. When any allergen invade the body the B cell identifiesthe invader and produces antibodies IgE those flows and attach with the FCreceptor of mast cell surface. The antigen or allergen further binds with thoseIgE antibodies over mast cell surface. This way of antigen and antibodyfixation stimulate the mast cell to releases the histamine content around thetissues. Those histamines when comes in contact to the surrounding tissue bindsto the histamine receptors present over the tissue surface and startsdeveloping allergic reactions. The symptoms of sneezing, runny nose, rednessand itching of eyes nose are nothing but the outcomes result of histamine andtissue reaction. So here the conventionaltreatment helps to check the allergic symptoms by blocking the histaminereceptor so the histamine cannot find the space to bind the tissue surface sothe allergic reaction does not take place.   But thosemedications give a short term effect of few hours.   Again when the person exposes to thoseallergens stats developing same symptoms and need the same medication again tostop the reaction. As we have to live in the same environment so it is quite difficultto keep away us from those allergens at all. So for a long term curative treatment,it is required to rectify the hypersensitiveness nature of the immune system ofthe allergic person so that he will not react adversely even when exposing tothe same allergens which he was reacting earlier.The homeopathy medicines help in this regards by rectifying or modifying the sensitive nature of the immune system of an allergic persons. It is because homeopathy medicines are not only selected from the clinical symptoms of any disease but also from the physical,mental, psychological and emotional features of a person for selection of medicines so it give impact on all systems of the body  including immune system. That’s the way it helps to modify the hypersensitive nature immune system of an individual to perform normal way like a healthy person. Homeopathy treatment for allergy gives wonderful result to the patients to prevent as well as cure the allergic constitution permanently.

How Seasonal Allergies Can Affect Your Oral Health

Dr. Ishwari Bhirud, Dentist
When allergy season is in full swing, your dental health may not be on the top of your mind. But a case of hay fever can make an impact on your teeth and gums. Here’s what to look out for and how to protect your mouth.Tooth painSinus pain is a common symptom of your immune system waging war on pollen and dust. The hollow spaces in your head fill up with mucus, causing aches and pains in your face. The maxillary sinuses, the largest sinuses in your face, are located above your mouth. When pressure builds in these sinuses, it can push down on the roots of your upper molars. You may experience sensitivity to hot and cold or notice pain that shifts as you sit, stand or lie down.Try antihistamines to see if you can get any relief. If your toothache goes away after taking antihistamines, the tooth is likely allergy-related. But if it persists after your allergy symptoms disappear, or occurs somewhere other than your upper molars, talk to your dentist. The pain may be caused by decay.Dry mouthAllergies can cause dry mouth in two ways. First, you’re more likely to breathe through your mouth when your nose is stuffy. Second, many antihistamines include dry mouth as a side effect. This condition isn’t just uncomfortable — it also increases your chances of developing cavities, gum disease and bad breath. One of the main functions of saliva is to wash away harmful bacteria. That means a dry mouth is the perfect place for cavity-causing bacteria to multiply.Sore throatAn irritated sore throat is a common result of allergies, caused by postnasal drip. This sore throat can cause bad breath, but since it originates in the throat, brushing your teeth won’t do much to help.What to doFollow these tips to keep your dental health in check.Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water to keep your mouth and body hydrated. Not only can this counteract the effects of dry mouth, it can also help your body flush away the excess mucus.Gargle with salt water. Dissolve a tablespoon of salt water in a glass of warm water. Gargle and spit until all the water is gone. The salt can help draw mucus out of your sinuses, relieving your symptoms. It also cuts down on harmful bacteria in your mouth and throat, reducing the effects of bad breath and plaque.Keep brushing and flossing. A serious attack of allergies is no excuse to slack on your oral health routine. Regular brushing and flossing are especially important when you’re experiencing dry mouth, so make sure you’re brushing twice and flossing at least once a day.Treat your allergies. Controlling your allergies can help reduce their impact on your mouth. Avoid known triggers, and talk to your doctor about long-term treatment options, such as prescription medication or allergy shots.Talk to your dentist. Continue going to scheduled dental appointments. If you’re experiencing tooth pain, mention it to your dentist. Your dentist can help you figure out whether it’s allergy-related or caused by other problems.

How Allergic Itchy Hives and Sneezing Transform Into Assertive Health

Dr. Satish Sawale, Ayurveda
Most people, at some point of time, have been affected by said allergic reactions. An allergic reaction is a hypersensitive reaction triggered by an Allergen (substance that has the potential to trigger an allergic reaction). Allergies can be Perennial or Seasonal. Perennial allergies are not season specific and can occur throughout the year.Seasonal allergies, on the other hand, are season specific, for example, Hay fever (triggered by pollen) is a common allergic reaction during the spring season. A number of substances can act as a potential allergen, triggering a hypersensitive reaction in a person. The allergens can be (Mostly shares Mental status of fear/Anxiety)Environmental factors, such as pollen, dust mites, sunlight, fur of some animals, or moldCertain foodstuffs like milk and dairy products, peanuts, wheat, soy, tomatoes, eggplant, alcohol or shellfish.Synthetic and natural substances like pesticides, nickel, latexCertain medications like sulfa drugs, penicillinAnimal stings; mostly wasps and bees, can also trigger an allergic reaction.The allergic reactions affecting a person can vary depending on the source of the allergen. It can be a skin allergy, nasal and cough allergy, food allergy or a dust allergy. The best way to treat is to transform old way of responses to the stimulus.Ayurveda  treatments (Panchakarma and Rasayan thrapies) are very effective to deal. Ayurveda treatment provides unique approach at acute and chronic stages for long lasting and permanent relief. In addition, the Ayurveda medicines have better acceptance comparative amazing recovery and no drowsiness at all. No wonder, more and more people are choosing for Ayurveda management on priority basis.The person mostly gets triggered initially at night after dinner or after contact with cold/open wind breeze or water.

Food Allergies

Dr. Zareen Mohamed, Allergist/Immunologist
FOOD ALLERGIESReactions to food are common. These reactions range from mild to severe, and may result from your body's negative response to certain foods or from a true food allergy.Common allergic foods in our Indian children based on personal experience are Nuts ,Milk, Shell fish, Eggs, Chicken,Brinjal,Lemon, Chickpea, Moong dhal. Some people also have oral allergy syndrome(OAS) , they have itching of lips and palate after eating apple or bananas. If allergic to apple or pear, we look for cross allergy to pollens . In banana allergy, we have to also rule out latex allergy. Latex is present in natural rubber products even balloons. There are also some cases with food dependent exercise induced anaphylaxis. A severe allergy reaction to food occurs after eating the suspect food and exercising or physical exertion soon after. The common culprit foods can be shell fish, wheat, tomatoes, seasame, ground nuts. If there is an allergy suspicion, they need to get evaluated by an allergist and food allergy test should be done. The most conclusive is oral food challenge. But oral food challenge should be done only in a hospital setting. It is also important to carry emergency medications like epipen. Unfortunately, epipen is not marketed in India. In India, we allergists, equip the patients with emergency medication. Food allergy should be taken seriously. It can present with a severe anaphylactic reaction. Community awareness and other general physician awareness is lacking very much in India. Schools should also conduct food allergy management program for their staff. The time to emergency treatment is critical.From 3 percent to 8 percent of children have reactions to some foods. Only 1 percent to 2 percent have true food allergies. Some children seem to grow out of their sensitivity to certain foods, often by age 4. Allergies to peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish usually do not go away, though.From 1 percent to 2 percent of adults have true food allergies. But people of any age can have sudden allergic reactions to a food that had previously not been a problem for them.Severe, life-threatening reactions are more common with allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish and eggs. These life-threatening reactions are more common in people who also have asthma.What are the Symptoms?The signs to suspect food allergy in children are hives or swelling and redness in the whole body, swelling of lips, itching around the mouth. Vomiting, abdominal pain and wheezing associated with skin hives are indicative of serious allergy reaction which requires emergency medical attention.Reactions can affect different body systems:The digestive tract, which first comes into contact with food. Some symptoms, such as swelling and itching of the lips, the lining of the mouth as well as throat tightness and hoarseness may occur quickly. When the food enters the stomach and then the intestines, nausea, cramping, pain, vomiting and diarrhea may occur.Body systems, such as the skin, lungs and blood vessels that are affected after the food leaves the digestive tract. These reactions can occur in minutes or within two hours. Often, hives and swelling of the skin occur. Anaphylaxis, the most dangerous and life-threatening result of a food allergy, usually occurs within minutes after consuming the food. When this happens, blood vessels widen so much that blood pressure falls. Symptoms include wheezing, difficulty breathing, throat tightness, nausea, rapid pulse, flushing, faintness, itching of the palms and sole of the feet and even passing out. Without speedy treatment, this intense allergic reaction can cause death. The first severe reaction to a food may be unexpected. Sometimes the patient may at first have minor symptoms such as stomach cramping or hivesHow is a Food Allergy Diagnosed?If your doctor suspects you may have a food allergy, the first step is to take a detailed medical history and physical exam. Other tests are used to confirm that you are allergic to certain foods. Some tests use extracts of the suspected foods:Ig E Antibodies to FOOD ALLERGENS by IMMUNOCAP ELISA test is done in a laboratory. It is used to test a sample of blood for antibody to a specific food. While more costly and less sensitive than skin testing, it is particularly useful when eczema and other skin conditions make skin testing difficult.Allergy skin prick test- The skin test involves scratching or pricking your skin with one or more extracts. Another test is the oral food challenge. This test provides the most convincing results. It is required if the relationship between the eating a specific food and symptoms is still unclear after skin tests. Your doctor will explain that all oral challenges -- giving patients the suspected foods -- carry a risk of causing an allergic reaction. They should be done with a specialist physician present and in a setting where allergic reactions can be treated promptly. If the diagnosis is still unclear, you may be put on an elimination diet. The first step is to follow the usual diet for 10 to 14 days. You keep a record of what and how much you eat, when a reaction occurred, and what the reaction was. The foods suspected of causing the reaction are then removed from your diet. Make sure that the foods are not in other foods you eat. For example, egg or milk may be in mayonnaise or salad dressings. Elimination diet should only be used for a limited period of time such as 10-14 days. What are Some Tips to Follow to Prevent an Allergic Reaction?Do not consume foods that cause a reaction. People with a severe allergy can go into anaphylactic shock from trace amounts of the food to which they are allergic. Touching foods cause some people to have a severe reaction.Read the ingredients lists on food labels to make sure allergy-causing foods are not mixed in. Read the list even if you have had the product before. Ingredients may change.When eating out, always ask restaurant staff about ingredients in food and how it was prepared. Cooking oils can have allergens. Peanut oil is often used in cooking indian savouries.Management of Food AllergyIf you have a severe reaction, take medication and seek medical care promptly. Injectable epinephrine should always be at hand for treating anaphylactic shock. Get medical care promptly after using epinephrine, even if you feel better. Symptoms may reoccur in a few hours. Antihistamines and steroids also management of food allergies in children: First and foremost is that the children should be educated on food allergies and read food labels. Any food with suspicion must be avoided, especially sharing food with class mates or accidental ingestion of allergenic food.]There was a case of a boy with severe egg allergy but not chicken allergy reacting badly to chicken in a food outlet. Apparently, egg was a hidden ingredient in the spices.Children with food allergy should carry emergency medicine like epipen and anti histamine tablets. Schools should also equip themselves with emergency medication like epipen as the time to treatment is critical.

5 Effective Daily Tips to Keep Away From Allergies

Dr. Rahul Kolamkar, Homeopath
Things to which body gets hypersensitive and reacts in the form of unwanted symptoms are allergies. These can be either on the skin, an immune response like fever etc, or food allergies. Acute onset and recurrence of symptoms are most irritating factors of allergies. Thus, prevention is the best solution and here are few tips to keep allergies at bay.Early morning schedule -A regular exercise schedule of min 20 mins stretching and 20 mins Yoga in soft sunlight will help to keep the vitamin D3 levels maintain. This will also help to keep the calcium levels up.Breathing exercise - Deep breathing in a rhythm like in yoga will help increase in lung capacity. This also keeps lower your anxiety also. Better lung capacity meets the demands when the body is in stress, increasing your body performance.Proper sleep -Sleep more or less both ways is a source of illness. For an adult, a good sleep of 7-8 hrs is helpful to keep mind stress free. Most important 'Early to bed and early to rise, keeps a person healthy wealthy and wise.'Proper water intake -Good amount of water intake at a regular interval will keep your body hydrated. This indirectly helps immune response and other physiological functions to work at full.Taking valued food -It's really hard to find organic food material. Thus, roof gardens and kitchen gardens are increasing day by day. Taking raw salads and sprouts will help to provide routine vitamins and minerals. Seasonal fruits ones a day by chewing rather than juice will stimulate the appetite and balance metabolism.All these in a regular schedule can help you lower your sensitivity to any allergens. Consistency and patience are the key to success.