Facts about Allergies

Having an allergy means that your body is reacting in a hypersensitive way to a specific substance that is inhaled. People have their own specific allergens that affect them, as well as their own set of responses. For some, allergies seem to occur sporadically, whereas for others, reactions show up at the same time each year. Identifying your particular triggers and symptoms can help in treating your condition better.

  1. Triggers

    • With so many potential airborne allergies, it is often difficult to know which triggers may be causing your allergic response. Although some of the more common triggers are pet dander, pollens and molds, it's important to know the specific types that you are allergic to. There are many different types of grass and tree pollens, mold spores and even pet dander. No one is allergic to all types, so it's important to find out which you are specifically allergic to. It's a good idea to visit an allergist to get tested. A series of skin pricks on your back or arm can let you know the specifics of what you are allergic to along with the severity of the reaction.

    Symptoms

    • Not everyone reacts the same way to the same trigger. One of the most common allergic responses is allergic rhinitis or hay fever. These symptoms can include nasal congestion, watery eyes, itchy throat and sneezing. In more chronic conditions, allergic rhinitis can lead to asthma, where symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing will occur. For allergies related to latex, food and drugs, a mild reaction of a rash is common. In severe cases, anaphylaxis can occur, where the throat swells and breathing becomes impaired.

    Prevention

    • Although avoiding allergens may be ideal, it is nearly impossible for many airborne allergies like pollens, molds and even pet dander. One of the best ways to eliminate them from your home is by using HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters on vacuums, air purifiers and air conditioners. This powerful filter is capable of removing the micro sized allergens floating around your home. When allergy season is high, it's also recommended to check online pollen and mold forecasts daily. When counts are high, try to plan activities indoors, and limit your time outside. In severe allergic responses, a protective mask may be required for use outdoors.

    Medications

    • Antihistamines and decongestants are two of the most widely used medications to help relieve allergy symptoms. They are available over the counter or by prescription, and come in the form of nasal spray, eye drops or a pill. Neither of these are meant for long term use, but rather for immediate relief. They should be taken at the first sign of any symptoms as they can take up to 30 minutes before any relief is felt. Leukotriene blockers and corticosteroids are preventative medications used to decrease inflammation and reduce symptoms over time. When used daily, these prescriptions can lessen allergic responses over time.

    Immunotherapy

    • Immunotherapy is a very affective allergy treatment for triggers such as pollens, pet dander, insect stings and dust mites. This series of shots which is administered by an allergist, contains small doses of your specific allergen. Over time, the dose is increased while the body builds immunity. Immunotherapy can be very successful in eliminating allergies, but it does require a big time commitment. Weekly visits to the allergist can take years before any relief is noticed.

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