Allergies are problems of the immune system. Most allergic reactions happen when the immune system reacts to a “false alarm.” Normally, the human body defends itself against harmful things, such as viruses or bacteria. But sometimes the immune system attacks mild things like dust, mold or pollen.
The immune system makes large amounts of the antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). This is a complex chemical weapon that attacks and destroys the invading substance (i.e., dust, mold, pollen, etc.) Each IgE antibody exactly targets a specific allergen or substance that causes the allergy. In this way, inflammatory chemicals, such as histamines, cytokines and leukotrienes, are made and given off. This causes the person to experience unpleasant or even life-threatening symptoms.
Allergens are substances that can be breathed in or swallowed or that come in contact with the skin. Common allergic reactions, such as hay fever, certain types of asthma and hives, are linked to IgE. A person can be allergic to one type of pollen but not another. When a sensitive person is exposed to an allergen, the body starts making a large amount of matching IgE antibodies. When the person is exposed to the same allergen at a later point, he or she may have a reaction. Symptoms of an allergic reaction will differ based on the type and amount of allergen you have come in contact with. It also depends on how the body’s immune system reacts to that allergen.
The most common allergens are:
Allergies can affect anyone, no matter their age, gender or race. Allergies are often more common in children, but a first-time event can happen at any age or come back after many years of remission.
There’s a tendency for allergies to run in families, although the exact family links that cause it aren’t yet understood. In sensitive people, things like hormones, stress, smoke, perfume or other environmental irritants may also play a role in making existing allergy symptoms worse.
An allergic reaction can happen anywhere in the body. This includes the skin, eyes, lining of the stomach, nose, sinuses, throat and lungs. These are the places where immune system cells are found to fight off germs that are breathed in or swallowed or have come in contact with the skin. Often, the symptoms of allergies grow slowly over a period of time.
Allergy sufferers may become used to constant symptoms like sneezing, nasal congestion or wheezing. They may not think that their symptoms are unusual. These symptoms can often be stopped or controlled with the help of an allergist. Allergic reactions can cause:
To diagnose an allergy, your health care provider will give you an exam and take your medical health record. He or she may also perform the following tests:
Highly allergic individuals know how it is difficult sometimes to stop an interfering running nose, sneezing, or cutaneous eruption. For effective management of these symptoms it is necessary to determine the irritating allergen. Standard analyses and general tests cannot always help to determine it. Allergy program at Anadolu Medical Center in Turkey starts with a physical examination, collecting complete anamnesis – all information on possible contacts with allergen, on patient’s relatives suffering from this problem, on periods of aggravation and recession.
Your health care provider will figure out the best treatment for you based on:
Immunotherapy is a type of treatment for allergic patients with rhinitis (hay fever), conjunctivitis or asthma. It is also used for patients with a stinging bug allergy. A mixture of the allergens the patient is allergic to is made.
Most patients get better with allergy shots or drops. It often takes six to 12 months before a clear reduction in allergy symptoms is noticed. In some patients, a reduction in symptoms is evident in as soon as six to eight months. A full course of immunotherapy is typically three to five years.
Allergy shots or drops are only part of the treatment plan for allergic patients. Since it takes time for allergy shots to become effective, you will need to stay on your allergy medication, as prescribed by your heath care provider. It is also important to keep on getting rid of allergens (such as dust mites) from your surroundings.
Medicine: There are many medicines that work well for people who suffer from allergies. Antihistamines are used to calm or stop the symptoms of allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and other allergies. Decongestants are used to treat stuffiness in the nose and other symptoms linked to colds and allergies. The use of medicines for asthma or breathing symptoms from allergies is tailored for each person based on the severity of the symptoms.
Anaphylactic shock or anaphylaxis can happen in extreme cases. Anaphylaxis is a serious, life-threatening reaction to certain allergens. Body tissues may swell, including tissues in the throat. Anaphylaxis can also cause a sudden drop in blood pressure. Although each person may feel symptoms differently, these are the most common symptoms of anaphylaxis:
Anaphylaxis can be caused by an allergic reaction to a drug, food, serum, bug venom or allergen extract. Some people who are aware of their allergic reactions or allergens carry epinephrine to counteract severe allergic reactions.
Avoidance is a very effective way to treat allergies. Ideas for avoiding allergens are:
* Prepared based on materials of Johns Hopkins Medicine