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Allergy is our body’s natural defense mechanism that involves a reaction from the immune system. The immune system is a complex system that helps the body to defend against unwanted foreign invaders. Want to know everything about the allergy and the immune system? Well, you are on the right track.
This article will tell you everything about how the allergic response occurs and why certain people become allergic to apparently harmless substances. Allergy or allergic diseases include food allergies, atopic dermatitis (skin allergies), allergic asthma (cough and runny nose), hay fever, and anaphylaxis (itchy rashes and swelling).
What is An Allergy?
Allergy is an immune response that is triggered by some typically harmless substances. The foreign substances that can cause an allergic reaction are called allergens. These foreign substances include pollen, pet danders, and even certain foods. Our immune system keeps us healthy by fighting off anything that can harm our bodies.
Depending on the type of allergens it can produce different types of allergic reactions that include symptoms like sneezing, cough, or inflammations. Normally the body tries to adjust to the environment.
Now if your body encounters anything like pollen or pet dander then the body realizes that it is harmless. But for the people who have pollen allergies, the immune system thinks the pollen as an invader. Therefore it attacks it to kill.
Types of Allergy
Usually, the body parts that are more prone to allergy symptoms are the nose, eyes, skin, gastrointestinal tracts, and lungs. Although these reactions come in different ways. Here are some brief descriptions of some common allergy reactions!
1. Hay Fever (Allergic rhinitis)
Well, hay fever or allergic rhinitis is the most common type of allergy reaction that almost all of us face. Usually, hay fever is caused by some indoor allergens like pet dander, dust mites, or even molds. For some people, the seasonal allergy reaction can be caused by tree leaves, grass, weed pollen, bees, and many more. In the case of hay fever, the most common symptoms are mentioned following.
- Stuffy nose
- Runny nose
- Itchy nose, throat, eyes, and ears
- Throat clearing
An allergic reaction that comes with a breathing shortage with inflammation is called asthma. The hyperactivity of the airways leads to a reversible narrowing of the air canals. The worst part about this type of allergy reaction is that asthma can coexist with hay fever. The most common symptom of allergy asthma are-
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
- Muscle cramp
3. Conjunctivitis (Allergic Eyes)
Conjunctivitis is a type of allergy reaction that causes inflammation on the eye tissue layer of the conjunctiva. Conjunctiva is a membrane that lies under the eyelids and covers the eyeball. The inflammation on the conjunctiva causes the redness of eyes and makes the eyes puffy. Also, it can come with the following symptoms.
- Redness of the eyes
- Watery eyes
- Itchiness within the eye
4. Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)
Well, this is a severe allergic condition that is usually found in infants! To have rashes and eczema one doesn’t even have to go under direct allergen exposure. Eczema is usually caused by a complicated inflammatory process. Some common symptoms are-
- Dry and scaly skin
- Rashes on the skin, especially in front of the elbow, behind the knees
- Redness of the skin
5. Urticaria (Hives)
Urticaria or hives are a type of skin reaction that causes red, raised, and itchy skin at any part of the body. Short-lived acute red hives are the severe effect of allergy reactions to medication or food. Also, hives can form from contacts of dogs and cats as well. The usual characteristic of hives are-
- Red and raised welts
- Intense itching
- No bruising
- Swellings of lips, throats, eyes, face, hands, and sometimes feet
Well amongst all the allergy reactions, and anaphylactic shock can cause a life-threatening condition that can affect your organs and even cause death. Usually, the food allergens that can lead to anaphylaxis are foods, venoms like bee stings, and meditations. Always remember that normal environmental allergens like pollen or pet dander are very unlikely to cause an anaphylaxis reaction. Some of the symptoms are-
- Itching bee hives
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Itchy eyes
- Swelling of the tongue and throat
- Nause, vomiting, diarrhea
- Abdominal discomfort
- Wheezing and coughing
- Shortness of breathing
- Low blood pressure
- Lightheadedness and passing out
Causes of Allergy
Well, with a common scenario example we can easily explain how an allergic reaction develops. An 8 years old girl in Australia was having a series of allergic reactions from 3 weeks like itchy eyes, rashes, and episodes of sneezing and wheezing. When she was taken to the doctor, the doctor examined and found out that she is getting allergies from a new pet dog that arrived in the house three weeks ago.
As we have already said that our immune system organizes a proper defense mechanism against any foreign invaders. The immune cells like lymphocytes and NK cells recognize these foreign particles. The immune system produces antibodies when foreign substances or antigens enter the body. These antibodies or immunoglobulins are of 5 types, IgG, IgM, IgE, IgA, and IgD. These immunoglobulins help to destroy these antigens and allergens by attaching to the surface cells. Thus the allergens become really vulnerable and other immune cells like NK cells and lymphocytes destroy the allergens. Allergy reactions produce a large number of IgE. When the IgE recognizes the antigen it starts causing an allergic reaction.
In the above 8 years old kid and her dog’s example, as a result of dogs dander, the kid developed IgE antibodies in a very large amount. And a large quantity of IgE can give you severe allergic diseases.
Who Is At The Risk Of Allergy Reactions?
Well though the food allergies start at a young age, allergy diseases and conditions can develop at any age. Whereas environmental allergy can develop at any time of your life. But behind a person to be allergic, his or her genetics, family history, and different gene factors are responsible. It has been found that tobacco exposure can increase allergic reactions. Cesarean babies are way more prone to allergic reactions than normally born children.
Western country people are more prone to allergies than farm-lived people. Allergy also depends on the use of antibiotics, the timing of exposure to antigens, and numerous other factors.
Types of Allergens
The foreign products that can produce an allergic response are known as an allergen. Usually, the common types of allergens include:
- Animal products like pet dander, cockroaches, dust mites, bees, and many more can trigger allergic responses.
- Insects and their stings like bees, mosquitoes, and wasps can cause allergic reactions like hives and rashes.
- Molds like airborne spores can develop allergic reactions.
- Wheat, nuts, shellfish, egg, milk can easily trigger an allergy in some people.
- Drugs like penicillin, sulfa, and cough syrups can develop a sudden allergic reaction.
- Pollens from weeds, grass, and flowers can trigger allergies. Resim from poison ivy and poison oak can cause allergic reactions.
Diagnosis of Allergy
Doctors and health experts can diagnose an allergy reaction in many ways. First, the doctor will check the symptoms and then run a physical test to know everything about your allergy. Then they will go for a skin test or blood test.
Blood Test: Well, an allergy blood test is done to find out about the presence of allergens and allergy-causing antibodies or IgE.
Skin Test: A skin test is very important to know everything about an allergy. This is the common type of test in which the rashes or hives of the skin is scratched or pricked. Thus the skin reactions will be documented.
Family History Test: For food allergy identification, checking family history is very important. Without a history of food allergy in the family, generally, food allergy doesn’t get triggered.
Drug Allergy Test: Some drugs can develop a severe allergic reaction even anaphylaxis. Thus to find out about the drug allergy a graded challenge test is done.
Treatments of Allergy
Treatments of allergy entirely depend on the condition of the patient. Different types of allergy need different types of treatments. And these are as follows!
1. For Asthma
Asthma needs the following treatments.
- Oral medicines
- Allergen immunotherapy
- Oral steroids
2. Conjunctivitis and Allergic Rhinitis
These two allergic diseases are easily curable. You just need to follow the following ways.
- Environmental control
- Oral medicines
- Nasal drops
- Eye drops
- Allergen immunotherapies
3. Atopic Dermatitis or Eczema
Well eczema can take a little time to be cured. You need to follow the following guidelines thoroughly.
- Routine moisturization of your skin
- Corticosteroid medicines
- Oral medicines that can control itching
- Immunosuppressants medications
- Injections like dupixent
4. Hives or Urticaria
Treating an allergic hive or urticaria you need to follow the following treatment steps.
- Oral steroids and antihistamines
- Injectable medicines
- immunosuppressants medications
Anaphylaxis is a severe case of infections. To treat anaphylaxis the doctors usually follow the following guidelines.
- Epinephrine medicine
- Consumption of antihistamine
- Auto injections
6. Allergen Immunotherapy or Allergy Shots
It is a process that is usually performed by allergists. The allergy immunotherapy with allergy shots can make your body less sensitive to any allergens. According to the FDA, you should intake an allergy shot tablet under your tongue. Well, this allergy shot is not so effective on food allergies.
Home Remedies of Allergy
Incorporating vitamins in your diet can help you to reduce allergic symptoms. Herbal medications and therapies can also treat allergies. Still, there are no proven home remedies that can successfully treat any allergic reactions.
OTC Medicines for Allergy
Allergies are a very common disease nowadays. Almost every one of us suffers from at least one type of allergy. However, you need to consult a doctor first for proper guidance about treating allergy. Check the symptoms of allergy and do not neglect them. Make sure not to come in contact with substances that can trigger an allergic reaction.
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