Allergies: Types, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
Allergies are classified according to the area they affect or what causes them. An allergy occurs when the immune system reacts abnormally to a foreign body. They exist in many forms with the most common being food, skin, respiratory and drug allergies.
Food allergy is most common in young children and rare in adults. People with this kind of allergy tend to react to proteins found in the food. The immune system attacks the proteins as it perceives them as foreign substances.
Most food allergy reactions occur after thirty minutes of food consumption since it takes time for the food to be broken down. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, about 550 million people worldwide are affected by food allergy.
What are the symptoms of food allergy?
Food allergy reactions range from mild to severe. People react differently and the range at which the reactions occur also varies. A food that once caused mild reaction can now cause a severe reaction. The most common symptoms are:
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, throat, mouth, and face
- Itchy skin.
- Sneezing, running nose, nasal congestion or coughing.
- Nausea and diarrhea.
- Skin rash.
- Tingling in your mouth.
- Burning sensation in the mouth and lips.
Anaphylaxis occurs when you experience a severe reaction. It happens after exposure to the specific food and occurs within a few minutes or hours. Anaphylaxis leads to a drastic drop in your blood pressure and uncontrolled breathing. It is often fatal and can lead to death. Its symptoms include:
- Itchy throat
- Accelerated heartbeat
- Rapid swelling of the mouth and lips
Common food allergy triggers
Even though any food can cause allergy, the following foods account for most allergies:
- Soya beans
- Tree nuts
What causes food allergy reactions?
The immune system reacts to a specific protein in each food by producing antibodies to attack it. When eaten next, the body reacts by producing histamine and other chemicals which bring about the allergic reaction. It causes the blood vessels to expand hence your skin becomes swollen. Histamine also causes the nerve to become more sensitive hence the itchiness.
Treatment and management
The most basic treatment option is to avoid the food that brings about an allergic reaction. Always be on weary of what you are eating. Read the ingredients of the food you buy in the supermarket and also when eating out.
It is the reaction of the immune system to some medication. Most reactions are caused by the introduction of antibiotics in the body. Other drugs that can cause allergic reactions are painkillers, aspirins, anesthetics and chemotherapy drugs.
Symptoms of drug allergy
- Hives: irregular skin bumps
- Swollen skin
- Skin rash
Anaphylaxis can occur in case of a severe reaction. This is a fatal reaction that is life threating. It can affect two organs at the same time. For example, you can have difficulty when breathing and develop a severe skin rash. The following are the symptoms of anaphylaxis:
- Trouble breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
Depending on the level of reaction, you can either:
Stop using the drug: Your doctor may prescribe another drug
Take an antihistamine: it stops the production of the histamine stopping the allergy reaction.
It is allergy-induced asthma. It occurs when you inhale an allergen. According to WebMD, 90% of kids who suffer from asthma have allergic asthma. When you come into content with the allergen, your airways muscles contract and overtime the airways are filled with mucus.
What are the causes of allergic asthma?
The allergy occurs when the immune system reacts to the harmless allergen causing your airways to swell. You may encounter breathing problems in this case. Some of the common allergens are:
- Tobacco smoke
- Air pollution
- Dust mite feces
- Cockroach feces
- Animal Dander
- Scented perfumes and fragrances
How is allergic asthma diagnosed?
The most common test is the skin prick test. The doctor will poke your skin with a small amount of the allergen. After 20 minutes he will check for red bumps on your skin. If they do appear, it is a sign of an allergic reaction. The doctor can also use a peak flow test. It is meant to measure the air pressure when breathing out.
What are the symptoms of allergic asthma?
The common symptoms of allergic asthma include:
- Chest tightness
- Rapid breathing
- Itchy eyes
- Running nose
How can I control allergic asthma?
To control allergic asthma you need to stay away from the allergens. You can employ the following tips:
- You should stay indoors when pollen content is high. Close all the windows and use a well-functioning air conditioner to filter the air.
- Avoid dust mite by wrapping your mattress and pillows with allergen-proof covers. Make sure to clean your sheets with hot water once a week. Also, avoid areas that dust might collect overtime. You can get rid of piles of clothes, heavy carpets and curtains.
- Control the humidity levels of your room. Use a dehumidifier to dry out the air and bring it to about 40%. Dehumidifying the air will prevent the growth of molds and dust mites.
- Observe dryness and cleanliness in your kitchen and bathroom to avoid growth of cockroaches and house mites. If you spot them, make sure to remove all food particles on the floor and carpet. Thoroughly clean the carpet to get rid of them.
What are the treatment options for allergic asthma?
You can use nasal decongestant sprays for a couple of days. If this doesn’t work, use stronger antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays.
If the above doesn’t work consult a doctor. Your doctor may prescribe inhaled steroids that help stop inflammation. He can also prescribe bronchodilators which are used to open up the airways.
Allergies can be mild and at the same time severe. Knowing what causes an allergic reaction in your body can help know what you need to avoid, and the best treatment. If you are prone to anaphylaxis, you should always stuck your medicine cabinet with antihistamines. They will be of great help in times of emergencies.