Allergy or hypersensitivity is an exaggerated response of the immune system against certain substances that are otherwise harmless. In people with allergies, the immune system fights these allergens by releasing chemicals and cellular toxins. 7 common causes of allergy triggers are:
- Pollen: In spring and summer, the air is filled with pollen from grass and pollen. When pollen is inhaled, it can trigger an allergic reaction.
- Animal dander: Dander is the skin shed by dogs, cats, etc. which can trigger allergies when you come into contact with it.
- Insect stings: Bees, wasps, and fire ants inject certain chemicals into the skin, which can trigger an allergic reaction.
- Medicines: Penicillin and certain antibiotics can sometimes abnormally activate the immune response, precipitating an allergic attack.
- Mold: Tiny fungal spores float in the air and are often found in damp or humid areas such as bathrooms or rooms that are poorly ventilated.
- Food: Some foods can cause allergies. Common examples are nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, etc.
- Latex: Latex allergies can cause mild allergic reactions when skin comes into contact with latex in gloves, condoms, or other items.
What are common allergy symptoms?
Symptoms depend on the severity of the allergy, and flare-ups range from mild to severe.
Mild allergy flare-ups may cause the following symptoms:
- Runny nose
- Red, swollen, watery eyes
- Itching in the skin, mouth, and eyes
- Sore throat
- Choking sensation
How are allergies treated?
Prevention is key when it comes to allergies. Avoid or reduce exposure to offending allergens when possible. For example, stay indoors during pollen seasons, close your windows, use a dehumidifier, etc.
Aside from prevention, treatment options include:
- Antihistamines and decongestants reduce inflammation in the airways and help ease breathing.
- Steroids can be prescribed to reduce inflammation, or your doctor may decide to inject special antibodies into your body to manage symptoms.
- Immunotherapy involves injecting an increasing dose of the allergen in your body over the course of 2-3 years, making your immune system less sensitive to the allergen due to repeated exposure.
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