Every now and then we hear people saying they have an allergy to this and that and how it has affected their daily life. A big chunk of the population is affected by one or more kinds of allergies. Sometimes they are just mild with few symptoms and sometimes they can turn into life-threatening conditions and need hospital admission. People are concerned and worried that allergy is making their life miserable, it is hampering their personal life as well as their social life. It can be troublesome for their work-life as well. So, to talk about it we are inviting Dr. Sony Sherpa to better understand allergy, its types, risks when to seek help, treatment, and how to prevent it.
Hello, Dr. Sony thank you so much for giving your precious time out of your busy schedule to speak to us. So, to start today’s conversation, what is an allergy, and how does it happen?
One of the wonders of the human body is that it can protect itself from dangerous attackers such as bacteria or viruses. Sometimes, the body reacts to mild substances such as dirt, dust, molds, animal dander, industrial chemicals, foods, medicines, insect stings, or pollen known as “allergens”, by generating an antibody known as immunoglobulin E (IgE).
When a vulnerable person who already has one of the allergic diseases (such as rhinitis or asthma) is exposed to these substances, the defense system activates its shield and releases a group of chemicals to attack and kill the supposed invader. As a result, few annoying symptoms and, in severe cases, life-serious conditions known as anaphylaxis can occur.
So who can develop allergies?/Who is more prone to have allergies?
Allergies can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status. It’s more common in children, but someone can get an allergy at any time of their life. After the first incidence, it may settle and only show up after a gap.
Genetic factors meaning if your close ones had or have an allergy then you might probably have it. But the exact mechanism is still unknown and lots of studies are still needed.
What are the symptoms of allergies?
Different people have different kinds of allergies. The presentation of a certain type of allergy might be different from another type. It can range from mild to severe.
If you have allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, you might have excessive sneezing, itchiness of the nose, eyes, or top of the mouth, runny, stuffy nose, and watery, red, or swollen eyes.
If you have a food allergy, you might get tingling in the mouth, swelling of the lips, tongue, face, or throat, swelling, or sometimes anaphylaxis.
If you have a drug allergy, it can present with itchy skin, rash, facial swelling, wheezing, and anaphylaxis as well.
How to know if someone has an allergy?
The first and best step to diagnose if someone has an allergy is via thorough medical history and physical examination. You may likely have an allergy to something if you develop symptoms of allergy when you come in contact with that substance.
Allergy diagnostic tests, like skin prick tests or blood tests, are generally used if you have a high chance of being allergic to multiple things. Skin tests involve pricking your skin and placing low doses of different types of possible allergens and measuring the redness around it. It is easily available and cheaper hence preferred most of the time. Results are available shortly.
A blood test, which is done to look for specific antibodies (IgE), is useful if the skin test cannot be done, if you have a widespread skin condition, and if you are too sensitive to the allergen.
What is anaphylaxis?
It is a sudden, serious, life-threatening medical emergency that can happen if you have an allergy to foods, or insect stings, or drugs. People might go into shock. Some of the manifestations which might suggest you are having anaphylaxis are decreases in blood pressure, extreme shortness of breathing, multiple skin rashes, nausea and vomiting, a quick but weak pulse, and loss of consciousness.
When to see an allergy specialist (allergist)?
If you feel you’re always getting sick, with cough or head congestion, skin rashes, sneezing all the time, you should go and seek help from an allergist. An allergist will help you find what might be the culprit for your symptoms and suggest treatments that will ease your problems.
What are treatment options for allergy?
An allergist will help you find suitable treatment options and also aid you find strategies to avoid your triggers Prevention is better than the cure. Some of the steps you can take to reduce your exposure to pollen are:
- Check pollen and mold counts daily which are given in the newspaper, TV, or on the internet.
- Keep windows closed.
- Get a HEPA filtering System
- Keep your bed free of allergens
- Wear glasses and a hat when going out.
- Take a shower before going to bed.
- Wear a filter mask when working in the field.
- Use Hypoallergenic products.
Are there medications/methods that can cure my allergy?
Allergies so far cannot be cured but their symptoms can be treated and controlled. Avoidance of allergens is the best way to prevent allergic reactions.
Medications known as antiallergic medications are available as over-the-counter or prescription drugs. They can be in the forms of tablets or solutions, nasal sprays, or eyedrops.
Sometimes, doctors might recommend allergen immunotherapy if you have worse allergies or allergies that are not fully relieved from prevention and drugs. This involves serial injections of processed allergen extracts, generally given over several months.
When to call 911?
If you suspect you are having a severe allergic reaction and symptoms of anaphylaxis you must call 911 or your local emergency number or seek urgent medical aid. Those who are prone to have anaphylaxis or had a history of anaphylaxis must carry an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) with them at all times. Give yourself the shot right away.
You must visit a nearby emergency medical facility if you got anaphylaxis even if it improved from the EpiPen shot because the symptoms might come back after the effects of the injection fade away.
Once again thank you Dr. Sony very much for your precious time, we learned so much about allergies, their types, their treatment, how to prevent them, and when to seek help.
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