Allergy is not only a disease, but also a body protection mechanism. It refers to the body’s immune system overreacting to potentially threatening foreign substances, also known as “allergens”, causing inflammation and other allergic symptoms, such as Eczema, gastrointestinal discomfort, allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma, allergic conjunctivitis and atopic dermatitis, which may even cause death in severe cases
Types and symptoms of allergies
Allergic reactions usually vary depending on the allergen, starting in the part of the body where the allergen is exposed, most commonly the respiratory tract, mucous membranes, and skin. Although most allergic conditions cause physical discomfort, they do not pose a threat to life. However, it may also worsen into “systemic allergy”, also known as “anaphylaxis”, which is a long-lasting attack. If you experience life-threatening allergy symptoms that last for 5 to 15 minutes, you should seek medical attention immediately. Here are 8 physical symptoms that may be caused by different allergies:
- dry skin
- itchy skin
- skin rash
- nasal congestion
- runny nose
- tearing up
- Itchy eyes, nose, throat, mouth, lips
- Swelling of eyelids, mouth, and respiratory tract
- Red and swollen eyes
- Dry and itchy eyes
- tearing up
- burning sensation
- Foreign body sensation
- Increased eye discharge
- conjunctival hyperemia
- feel sick and vomit
- weight loss
- Skin rashes and red spots
- Lumps appear on the skin
- unusual itching
Oral allergy syndrome
- Itchy throat
- Itchy mouth
- itchy lips
- Shortness of breath
- Breathing with wheezing sound
- Itching, especially on the soles of the feet, palms, or scalp
- Swelling of eyes, mouth, and throat
- Stomach ache
- Feel sick and vomit
- Asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, and coughing
- When symptoms are severe, you may experience dizziness, fainting, or loss of consciousness.
When should you seek medical help?
If you find you have allergic symptoms and commercially available over-the-counter allergy medicines are not enough to provide relief, you need to consult a doctor for professional and complete diagnosis and treatment. If you develop allergy symptoms while using a new allergy medication, seek help from your prescribing physician.
If anaphylactic shock occurs, please call 111 NHS or the local emergency hotline for emergency medical help. If you carry an epinephrine auto-injector (Epinephrine), you can also inject it first and then seek medical attention immediately.
People who have experienced severe allergies or anaphylactic shock symptoms in the past should seek evaluation from a physician specializing in allergy and immunology, because the diagnostic process is complex and requires long-term observation and management by a specialist.
Causes of allergies
Allergies can be affected by family genetics and environmental factors. In medicine, another name for allergies is “atopic” reaction (Atopy). Atopic dermatitis is one of the diseases caused by allergic symptoms.
Hypersensitivity is caused by the interaction of three factors: allergens, immunoglobulin E (IgE), and mast cells.
When an allergic person is exposed to an allergen for the first time, the immune system treats these “foreigners” as harmful to the body and produces large amounts of IgE. These immune antibodies will attach to the surface of mast cells in the subcutaneous, nasal cavity, upper respiratory tract mucosa, and digestive tract and other organs. This process is called sensitization.
When the human body comes into contact with the same allergen for the second time, these mast cells that have been labeled by antibodies will secrete chemicals, including histamine and platelet activating factor, to trigger an allergic reaction.
Common allergens in life
- Inhalant allergens: dust mites, cockroaches, mold, pollen, animal dander, dust, air pollution
- Food allergens: milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, seafood, nuts, drugs
- Contact materials: hair, dyes, cosmetics, ivy, nickel in coins, latex in gloves
- Injection: insect venom and drugs
- Drug allergy: penicillin or antibiotics containing this ingredient
Allergy Risks and Complications
People with allergies are at high risk of allergic diseases. The origin of allergies is related to multiple factors such as innate genetics, acquired diet and living environment.
Generally speaking, allergies begin in childhood. However, there are still some people with allergies who only develop allergies when they are older, such as patients with atopic dermatitis.
Allergic symptoms generally decrease with age. The following are high-risk groups with allergies:
- People with a family history of asthma, allergic rhinitis, hay fever, urticaria or eczema
- People with asthma or other allergic conditions
In addition, allergies may also cause respiratory complications such as anaphylactic shock, asthma, sinusitis, and nasal or lung infections.
Diagnosis and treatment of allergies
When diagnosing allergies, the doctor will first understand the allergic person’s living habits and medical history, and then make a professional judgment on what may trigger the allergic symptoms. After diagnosis, the doctor may ask you to keep a daily record of allergy symptoms, including the possible allergic factors you have observed. For example, people with food allergies need to meet the following two guidelines:
- Record what you eat and drink every day
- When assessing the allergy stage, avoid touching foods that may cause allergies
If the cause still cannot be found, the doctor may consider doing blood tests and skin tests. However, false reactions may occur and affect the test results, so the evaluation of a professional physician shall prevail.
- Blood test
- Skin test
The best treatment is to avoid exposure to allergens, but the triggers of allergies are extremely complex and sometimes require medication to control them:
- allergy medication
- immunity therapy
- Adrenaline (emergency rescue)
Allergy Care and Prevention
Allergy symptoms may occur due to exposure to allergens, seasonal changes, environmental changes, or year-round. When it comes to treating allergies, the first focus is on avoiding the allergen, followed by treating the symptoms. As long as the correct treatment is given early, even acute allergies can improve within a few hours. If the symptoms are more severe, it may take several days to recover.
To successfully treat allergies, in addition to understanding the allergens and coordinating treatment with a specialist, long-term monitoring is also required to understand the changes in allergen-specific IgE in the body and the body’s allergic status. Preventing allergies will vary depending on the type of allergy. Common prevention methods include the following:
- Avoid possible allergens such as respiratory or food allergens
- Keep an allergy diary to record allergic reactions
- Wearing a medical identification bracelet
In addition, improving your home environment can also reduce some allergy symptoms, including:
- Rinse nasal cavity with saline solution
- Clean frequently, change bed sheets, and turn on the air purifier
- Turn on the dehumidifier to reduce the humidity in your home