Allergies: Help, Support and Overcome
Allergy is an extreme reaction to a foreign body. It is the body’s own natural defense mechanism that triggers symptoms like sneezing, coughing, vomiting and itching. In extreme cases it could be fatal. Allergies can also cause asthma which is a constriction of the air passages causing breathing difficulty. Nearly 25% of the urban population suffers from allergy. The allergens or what the body regards as an ‘intruder’ could be anything, from pets, certain drugs, mold, dust mites, latex and weather conditions, to allergic reactions caused by various foods. Allergic reaction is specific only to certain people and this is not hereditary. For instance, peanuts can cause allergy in one person and be well tolerated by another. Within a family, a child could exhibit allergy symptoms, with absolutely no reaction in the parents. 60 percent of all allergies are caused by particular foods like seafood, nuts, wheat, milk and milk products, egg white, sesame seeds and fish to name a few. But this condition is not serious and can be managed even without drugs in most cases.
Help and Support for Allergies
The first step in treating allergies is to identify the allergen. If it occurs in a particular season of the year, it could be pollen, or if any symptom like sneezing is triggered while dusting or on entering the bedroom, it could be dust mites. To identify food allergens, a food diary has to be maintained to spot the allergen. Doctors can help by checking the eyes, ears, nose, chest and throat to detect an allergic reaction. For a more serious condition a skin test, patch test, blood test, pulmonary function test or an X-ray of the lungs may be necessary to identify the symptom causing allergen. Eliminating the causes can prevent allergic conditions. Beds and bed linen can be vacuumed and changed regularly; pets with fur like cats and dogs should not be allowed inside the house; allergy causing foods can be avoided; feathered friends strictly left to nature to look after; and filters can be fixed to stop pollen breezing into the home or office. Furniture has to be wiped dry to keep mold from forming and indoor plants kept to a minimum.
Treatment is decided by the severity of the disease. Allergy can be prevented by eliminating the source of allergens. Though this condition is not life threatening in most cases, the symptoms are troublesome and irritating disrupting normal school, home or office routines. The doctors usually prescribe nasal sprays/drops, eye drops, decongestant pills or antihistamines that reduce all the symptoms. Corticosteroid creams or ointments can be used for reducing itchiness and skin rashes. Epinephrene is prescribed only in a life threatening, anaphylactic attack. This is available in various pre measured, self injectable containers for patients with severe allergy. Immunotherapy or allergy shots involves giving increasingly higher doses of the allergens over a certain length of time. It is effective in animal allergies, insect stings and hay fever. Alternative medicines in homeopathy,herbal medicine, acupuncture and breathing exercises have existed for centuries for treating allergies effectively. Treatment of any type lasts till no allergic reaction is detected even when provoked with the allergens. Medications like anti histamines like all other drugs cause side effects, mainly drowsiness and blurred vision and have to be taken with care.