Allergies happen when the body reacts to certain substances and foods in an inappropriate way. It is very common for people to have allergies, which is also why allergy signs, symptoms and treatments are vast and varying. In fact, it is believed that up to 25% of all people have some sort of allergy.
As a parent, it is important to be aware of allergy signs, symptoms and treatments because it is particularly common for children to develop them. Sometimes, they disappear with age, whereas others retain their allergies for life. It is also possible to develop allergies later on in life. Unfortunately, being allergic can have a significant negative impact on overall quality of life. Nevertheless, it is quite easy to manage and keep it under control.
There are so many allergy signs, symptoms and treatments that it is better to look at a few allergies individually first. The most common allergens, which are the substances that cause the allergy, are:
– Tree pollen and grass, causing allergic rhinitis or hay fever
– Dust mites
– Food, particularly dairy, eggs, shellfish, certain fruits, and nuts
– Pet dander
– Household chemicals
– Bees and other insects
Common Allergy Symptoms:
Different people experience allergies in different ways. Almost always, however, the signs and symptoms appear almost instantly after contact with the allergen, although it can sometimes take a few hours. The most common symptoms are:
– An itchy, blocked, runny nose and sneezing (allergic rhinitis)
– Watery, red, itchy eyes (conjunctivitis)
– Coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing
– Swollen face, eyes, tongue, or lips
– Diarrhea, vomiting, sickness, abdominal pain
– Cracked, red, dry skin
– Red, itchy, raised rash (hives)
The symptoms can vary significantly depending on the allergy and how you contacted the allergen. For instance, pollen exposure usually leads to allergic rhinitis, whereas skin allergies lead to hives and food allergies lead to sickness.
If you believe that you or your child has suffered an allergic reaction, you should speak to your physician. They will help to determine whether it was indeed an allergy, or whether something else is going on. They may run some tests and determine the most appropriate treatment.
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that could potentially be lethal. This is a rare effect of allergies, whereby the entire body is affected. Usually, the reaction happens within minutes of being exposed to the allergen. The common signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
– Difficulty breathing
– Swelling of the mouth and throat
– Feeling lightheaded
– Blue lips or skin
– Losing consciousness
If you spot these signs and symptoms in someone, you must dial 911 immediately.
Allergy treatments vary depending on the type of allergy. Usually, a physician will be able to advise on the best form of treatment. They will also teach you how you can avoid coming into contact with the allergens, and what you should do should you experience a reaction.
Avoiding the allergens is the best way to avoid having a reaction, but this is not always possible. You could:
– Watch what you eat so as not to experience a food allergy.
– Keep pets outdoors and wash them if you have dander allergy.
– Ventilate your home and keep it dry if you are allergic to mold.
– Stay indoors and away from grass if you have hay fever.
– Use hypoallergenic bedding and avoiding carpets if you are allergic to dust mites.
If you do suffer an allergic reaction, you are likely to need some medication to bring it under control. Many of those are available over the counter, although you should speak to the pharmacist about how to take it and to ensure it doesn’t counteract with other medications you are taking.
Antihistamines are the most common type of medication for allergies. Use them:
– If you notice you are having a reaction
– To prevent reactions if you know you will be exposed to allergens
Antihistamines exist in nasal sprays, eye drops, liquids, creams, capsules, and tablets. The type you use will depend on where you have a reaction.
Decongestants are also very useful. They are a short term option for those who experience a stuffed nose, for instance as a result of hay fever. Decongestants can be in the form of liquids, nasal sprays, capsules, and tablets. You should only take them for about a week, as they can make symptoms worse if you take them longer.
Creams and lotions are used on allergies that affect the skin. Common options include:
– Moisturizing creams and emollients, which help the skin stay moist, thereby leaving it protected from allergens.
– Calamine lotion, which soothes itchiness
– Steroid creams, although those must be prescribed
Steroid medications are prescribed to those who experience significant inflammation as a result of allergic reactions. They can be provided as eye drops or nasal sprays, creams for contact dermatitis and eczema, asthma inhalers, and tablets for urticaria (hives). Some steroid medication are available over the counter, but most people require stronger medication over time, which must be prescribed.
Another option is desensitization, or immunotherapy. This is not suitable for everybody, but it has shown interesting levels of success, particularly if none of the above options have worked. Immunotherapy means that you will be exposed to the allergen on purpose at regular intervals, in a controlled environment. This happens for a number of years and must be done in a specialized clinic with full physician supervision. This is because there is always the chance of anaphylactic shock. Over time, you may be offered tablets or drops, which can be taken unsupervised at home.
Immunotherapy aims to help the body build up an immunity to the allergens, instead of reacting to them. While it usually doesn’t fully cure someone’s allergy, it does make it far less severe. In fact, people generally find that they no longer need medication.
Furthermore, you must be aware of the treatment for anaphylaxis as well. This is a life-threatening condition and people who are at risk of it are provided with adrenaline pens to be used during an emergency. If you notice that you are experiencing anaphylaxis symptoms, you must inject yourself with adrenaline in the outer thigh and then immediately phone 911.
There also exist treatments for specific types of allergies. Hay fever, allergic rhinitis, food allergies, conjunctivitis, eczema, urticaria (hives), asthma, and contact dermatitis, can all be treated through specialized medication. A physician will be able to determine the most appropriate one.