Allergy is an inflammatory response produced by the body’s immune system to foreign substances that enter the body. Allergens are allergy producing substances such as pollens, dust mites, molds, animal dander, foods, insect stings, and certain medicines. Allergies can occur at any age and are very common in people who have a family history of allergies.
The most common allergic disorders include:
- Allergic rhinitis (hay fever) is an inflammatory disease of the nasal mucous. It is caused due to indoor allergens such as dust mites, animal dander, or molds. You may develop symptoms such as sneezing, nasal congestion, itchy nose and eyes, running nose, and sore throat. The risk factors for developing allergic rhinitis include smoking, pollution, infection, and hormonal imbalance.
- Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes inflammation and narrowing of the air passages resulting in wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, and chest tightness.
- Allergic conjunctivitis or allergic eyes is an inflammation of the membranes covering the surface of eyeball and eyelid. The inflammation causes redness of the eye, watery or itchy eyes and swelling of the membranes.
- Allergic eczema or allergic dermatitis is an allergic rash, commonly associated with allergic rhinitis or asthma resulting in rashes around the eyes and face.
- Allergic shock or anaphylaxis is a severe reaction which is life- threatening affecting different areas of the body. The condition is often caused by substances that are injected or foods, and results in skin discoloration, nasal congestion, and shortness of breath, wheezing, and swelling of the throat.
Consult your doctor or an allergist to seek treatment option. Your allergist will first obtain a detailed medical history and examine you before the treatment is started. Skin tests and other allergic tests will be required to identify the exact cause of allergy.
Following the tests the treatment will be started which includes:
- Prevention: Prevention or avoidance is the best treatment for allergies. If the cause of the allergy is identified it should be eliminated or avoided. For example if you are allergic to some food or animal fur it should be removed or kept away. If you are allergic to tobacco smoke, avoid smoking to prevent allergy.
- Medications: Decongestant sprays may be recommended by your doctor. Steroid nasal sprays can also be given which will ease your breathing ability. Antihistamines may be needed to relieve the symptoms. Some medicines may be used in the form of eye drops or nasal drops to prevent the attacks.
- Allergy shots: If your allergist identifies specific allergy. Allergic shots are prepared by the allergen itself and are injected into the body. This enables to decrease your sensitivity to allergens and provide resistance to tolerate the allergens that trigger the allergic reactions. It also stimulates the immune system to fight against allergens.
- Treatment for asthma: Anti-inflammatory drugs (corticosteroids) reduce the inflammation and lessen the risk of acute asthma attacks. Bronchodilators are used to increase the width of the air passages and ease in breathing.
Tips to prevent allergies
- Avoid exposure to allergens that trigger allergy at home such as pets, mold, and dust mites
- Wash bed sheet and pillows cover with warm water and use allergy resistant pillow covers
- Avoid smoking and use of tobacco