Allergies: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments
Sometimes, you feel uneasy, have difficulty breathing, or develop rashes and itchiness on the skin after eating food. It denotes that you ate something that you are allergic to. Sometimes, you may be vacationing and trolling in a beautiful garden, and you develop rashes or start a cold. Even in this case, you have encountered an allergy.
Allergies are of various types. Different people have different kinds of allergies. For example, you may have an allergy to a food item or any particle in the atmosphere. An allergy happens when your body recognizes a substance as foreign and reacts against it. In other words, when your body does not accept a particular substance and fights against it, the reaction is called allergy.
Your body contains immunoglobulins. When these immunoglobulins do not identify something, the body has a reaction known as an allergic reaction. The substance causing the reaction is called an allergen.
With the advancement of time, research has proven a gradual rise in food allergy cases globally. Earlier, the allergens were few, like nuts, seafood, etc. But now, there is a rise in the number of issues and the types of allergens.
Types of Allergens and their Allergies
1. Dust Mites
They are microscopic, meaning they are not visible to the naked eye. Dust mites are minute insect-like parasites that produce some of the most prevalent indoor allergens. It can cause allergic responses and asthma in many individuals. The bedding, mattresses, upholstered furniture, carpets, and curtains in your house can harbour hundreds of millions of dust mites. They live on dead cells of human skin, their only food source. For patients with allergies and asthma, mites are one of the most common indoor triggers.
People with asthma and those who are allergic or particularly sensitive to mites might negatively influence their health if they are exposed to dust mites regularly at home. Allergic rhinitis is the immune system’s reaction to specific allergens. An allergy to dust mites can range from minor to severe. A mild case may result in a runny nose, watery eyes, and occasional sneezing. However, the disease is chronic in extreme cases, leading to recurrent sneezing, coughing, congestion, face pressure, or a severe asthma attack. Asthmatics who are allergic to mites have a higher risk of flare-ups or asthma attacks.
When you inhale mould spores, your immune system overreacts if you have a mould allergy. Mould allergies can cause itchy eyes, coughing and other unpleasant symptoms. Also, mould allergy is related to asthma in certain persons and exposure results in restricted breathing and other respiratory tract problems.
If you have a mould allergy, the best way to protect yourself is to limit your exposure to the moulds that trigger your reaction. You can also manage mould allergy symptoms with medication.
Pollen is one of the world’s most prevalent causes of allergies. Trees, flowers, grasses, and weeds generate pollen, a fine powder used to fertilise other plants of the same species. When inhaled pollen, many people experience an unfavourable immunological reaction. The immune system generally guards the body against dangerous invaders such as viruses and bacteria to fight against them. The immune system misidentifies the innocuous pollen as a harmful intruder in those with pollen allergies. To combat the pollen, it begins to create chemicals. It is an allergic response.
Similarly, the pollen that produces it is an allergen. Pollen allergies affect some people all year, while others only experience them at particular year periods. People who are allergic to birch pollen, for example, frequently experience worse symptoms in the spring. This allergy is also called allergic rhinitis or hay fever.
4. Animal Dander
Pet dander forms due to small skin shed by dogs, cats, rodents, birds and different creatures. These pieces of skin can cause responses in individuals who are explicitly sensitive to these triggers. Extra hypersensitivity triggers or allergens come from sources other than the creature’s skin. For example, proteins found in saliva, pee and defecation from felines can cause unfavourable reactions in some individuals. It also happens due to canines and different pets.
The Fel D brings about the most well-known hypersensitivities-I protein from felines and dogs’ Can f I and Can f II proteins. Dried spit containing allergens might drop off from a creature’s hide and become airborne, where it is breathed in by the unfavourably susceptible individual. Dust from dried excrement suspends similarly.
Stings by insects like honey bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets, and fire ants are standard unless you have a very painful reaction after being stung. If the response is extremely painful with difficulty breathing, you might have a sting allergy. If you are allergic to an insect sting, you need medical attention and should rush to the hospital. You should leave the place or the location where you were stung immediately, as another sting can be deadly.
Latex is a polymer like rubber but in liquid form. Many people who have latex allergies develop it after repeated skin contact with latex. Gloves made of rubber used in surgery, hair dyeing, home cleaning, or washing dishes are the primary source to cause this type of reaction. Eye tearing, wheezing, itching of the skin etc., are some of the symptoms. The only cure for latex allergy is prevention and avoiding using products with latex.
7. Specific Foods
The most common foods to which people are allergic are soy, wheat, egg, milk, shellfish, peanut and tree nuts. Allergic reactions to food develop when your body produces an antibody to fight against that particular food item. Minutes after eating the food, the response starts, and it keeps growing until and unless you take medications. The only way to stop these reactions is not to eat the particular food items that may cause an allergy.
8. Drug Allergy
When a particular medication doesn’t suit you, you develop reactions against the drug. It is known as drug allergy. You need medical attention if something like this ever happens.
Symptoms of Allergy
The symptoms are different for different types of allergies. Given below are all the classifications.
Allergic rhinitis or Hay fever has the following symptoms:
- Itchiness in the nose, eyes or upper part of the mouth
- Stuffy and runny nose
- Unstoppable sneezing
- Red, water eyes/swollen eyes or conjunctivitis
A drug allergy has the following symptoms:
- Itchy skin
- Swelling of the face
- Heavy breathing or wheezing
- Redness on the skin.
An insect sting allergy has the following symptoms:
- Water retention or oedema is present right under the place where you were stung
- Redness and itching all over the body
- Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness.
A food allergy has the following symptoms:
- Tingling sensation in the mouth.
- Redness all over the body
- Swelling of the face with throat, lips and tongue
An allergic reaction on the skin also (called eczema) has the following symptoms:
- Peel or flakiness of the skin
- Redness all over the skin
- Itchiness all over the skin.
This symptom is common amongst a few allergies. It is a life-threatening emergency which means the person goes into shock. The symptoms and signs differ from person to person, but the common ones are listed below:
- Dizziness that progresses to loss of consciousness
- A significant drop in blood pressure
- Difficulty in breathing and severe shortness of breath
- Red rashes all over the skin
- Aretha or rapid heartbeat / feeble pulse (this depends from case to case, some experience fast pulse or some experience very faint pulse)
- Birdbrained or light-headedness
- Vomiting tendency and nausea.
Causes of Allergies
An allergy happens when your immune system mistakenly takes a harmless substance as a harmful one and reacts against it. It may be due to genetics or an altered environment. For example, a person who shifts from a village to a heavily populated city might develop an allergy to mould. It is because of the change in environment and high levels of pollution in cities compared to villages.
People who have asthma or have a genetic linkage to their elders who had asthma are more prone to allergies than others. In addition, when a person is suffering from fever, they have weakened immunity; hence, a person can also be easily affected by a harmless allergen.
Treatment for Allergies
Avoiding allergen is the best treatment approach. Apart from this, the medications used to treat allergies are:
- Nasal sprays with steroids and nasal antihistamines.
Some asthma medicines used to cure allergies are:
- Inhaled steroids
- Inhalers with bronchodilators
- Bronchodilators took orally
- Injections with reslizumab, omalizumab, benralizumab or mepolizumab
Allergy shot therapy is also known as immunotherapy. It is an oral therapy proven effective against allergic asthma or allergic rhinitis.
Another effective treatment method is saline irrigation. This method involves rinsing the nasal cavity with saline solutions with the help of a nebuliser or a spray or pump etc.
Natural Remedies for Allergies
1. Vitamin C
It is an antioxidant. It helps in building stronger immunity. Taking daily recommended values of this vitamin helps reduce histamine levels in the body. Reduced histamine levels reduce the need for anti-histamines in the body which are medicines given to treat allergies.
They are healthy bacteria for the gut. Probiotics are readily available through curd/ yoghurt. In addition, Lactobacillus in probiotics helps reduce allergic rhinitis, as proven by research.
Bromelain is an enzyme available from pineapple and ripe papaya. It is a natural healer, reduces swelling and rashes, and improves breathing. In total, it reduces symptoms of allergy and provides relief.
4. Peppermint Oil
It has extensive uses in many medicines due to its healing effects. In addition, due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it reduces asthma and allergic rhinitis symptoms. It is usually applied topically after being diluted with a regular oil or diffused in air to be inhaled.
5. Eucalyptus Oil
For ages, eucalyptus has been known for its healing properties. In addition, it is anti-microbial and can be added with detergent while washing clothes during allergy season.
Diagnosis of Allergies
Allergy skin testing is done by applying a drop of different allergens on your skin and seeing which one is reactive against your body. Serum testing is done for other allergens by qualitative analysis. Skin test, prick test, blood test etc. minimum of two types of examination is essential to be sure about a particular kind of allergy. No one test can give concrete results.
Prevention of Allergies
Prevention of allergic reactions depends on the type of allergy you have. Given below are some standard prevention techniques.
1. Stay away from known triggers.
You have to know the thing you are allergic to and stay away from it. For example, if you are allergic to dust, you always remain in a clean and hygienic environment. Or, if you are allergic to prawns, you should never eat prawns or be careful while ordering food.
2. Maintain a book or diary.
When identifying the cause of allergy, keep a note of where you are going and what you are eating. So that when your body reacts, you can track the item you were allergic to, which caused the reaction.
Foods that Fight Allergies
1. Sinus Clearing Spices
These include star anise, fennel seeds, horseradish, and hot mustard. These spices are natural decongestants and help fight congestion that develops due to allergy.
They act as mast–cell stabilisers by decreasing the number of cells reacting to an allergen. Mast–cells release histamine, which causes allergies in the body. Hence they respond against histamines and provide relief from allergies. Apples. Onions, tea, red wine etc., have bioflavonoids.
3. Magnesium-Rich Foods
Magnesium acts as an antihistamine and a bronchodilator in your body. As a result, these foods have a calming effect on muscles and the whole body. Sources of high magnesium foods are almonds, cashew nuts, wheat bran etc.
4. Vitamin E Rich Foods
Gamma–tocopherol in vitamin E rich foods gives relief against the anti-inflammatory nature of allergies. It reduces inflammation in the nasal cavity and provides comfort from a runny and itchy nose. Vitamin E rich foods are soybean oil, sunflower oil, red bell pepper, pumpkin sunflower seeds etc.
5. Coldwater Fish
Salmon fish is a cold-water fish. It is rich in Omega 3 fatty acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties and provides relief against allergy.
You can prevent allergies by following a diet rich in anti-allergy foods and taking proper medications if needed. In case of a reaction to a food you are allergic to, you consult a doctor immediately and not rely only on home remedies. Allergic reactions can be debilitating if not paid attention to in the long run. However, awareness and proper diagnosis can help address them and stall their progress. So, be mindful and recognise triggers and seek help at the very onset.