You must have heard someone complaining that they are “allergic” to one thing or the other. You probably must have seen a person reacting badly after tasting peanuts and you wonder why. An allergy can simply be defined as the reaction of your immune system to foreign substances.
Examples of these substances are pollen, bee venom, or a particular type of food that may not trigger any response from other people. These foreign substances are called allergens.
As soon as the immune system which acts as our body’s defense mechanism marks a particular substance as harmful, it produces antibodies to destroy the allergen and this triggers allergic reactions. There are different types of allergic reactions. And while some are rare, others are quite common.
Some people would react badly on exposure to dust, smoke, or foul smell. Allergies usually occur when the body touches, absorbs or ingest a foreign substance. In some people, their allergies are triggered by medications.
In a few cases, when not properly taken care of, allergic reactions can become life-threatening and may even lead to death. Sneezing, itching, watery eyes, runny and stuffy nose are a few of the allergic reactions which are very common. Below is a list of some of the substances that can trigger allergic reactions:
i. Protein-based food such as fish, eggs, animal dander, peanuts and milk.
ii. Insect stings from bees or wasps which may eventually lead to swelling.
iii. Medications such as penicillin or penicillin-based products.
iv. Latex and other substances you touch.
Despite the fact that allergies are largely not curable, they can be effectively managed and avoided. One must have to avoid whatever substance that triggers an allergic reaction in their body. Severe complications of allergies may include anaphylaxis and asthma. One of the commonest indications that one is allergic to a particular substance is the shortness of breath they may experience.
Anaphylaxis is defined as an acute allergic reaction to an antigen (for example, a pollen grain) which makes the body hypersensitive. One may experience difficulty in breathing or induced asthma during allergic reactions.
Drug, food and skin allergies top the list of the most common allergies. Milk, peanuts, eggs, wheat, tree nuts, etc. are some of the major foods that have been observed to cause triggers amongst many people. A good number of people react badly to these food substances. Swelling of the lips, tongue and feet, as well as choking are some of the signs of food allergies experienced by some people. However, these signs can also occur in the reaction to other allergens. Penicillin, an oil-based drug has been observed to trigger allergic reactions in many people. Since it takes a great deal of time for penicillin to pass out of the system, the allergic reactions would tend to continue with treatment.
Another notable form of allergy is the reaction to pollen. This usually occurs at the time when plants attempt to carry out cross-pollination. In this case, their pollen grains will travel long distances as they are airborne.
Now that we know the definition of an allergy and the general symptoms that point towards allergic reactions, we may want to ask; how does one test for an allergy? There are two major ways that allergies can be tested in individuals. Albeit these methods are not entirely effective, they are very vital in determining the particular substance an individual may be allergic to.
1. SKIN TEST
This type of test involves bringing the allergen in contact with the individual’s skin to trigger an allergic reaction deliberately. After the skin is pricked, the suspected allergen is carefully brought in contact with the area where the skin is pricked. After some time, a red patch is observed and the individual may begin to have itchy sensation on that part of the skin. This shows that the individual is responsive to that particular allergen.
2. BLOOD TEST
Allergic reactions are triggered by hypersensitivity of the body to certain substances. In essence, what occurs is, as soon as a foreign substance is introduced into the body and the body recognises it as harmful, its immune system quickly introduce antibodies which are also called immunoglobins. These immunoglobins function in destroying the harmful substances thereby causing allergic reactions. The immunoglobin E (IgE) is responsible for allergic reactions and is found on the skin, mucus membrane and linings of the lungs.
PREVENTION AND TREATMENT
Allergies can be prevented and treated in different ways. An individual with allergies must be able to understand and control their allergies at all times. Here are a few tips for preventing allergies to occur:
i. Avoid going to places that may trigger your allergies. A person who is allergic to pollens should not be found in areas where they can easily come in contact with the grains.
ii. It is advisable to take medications for seasonal allergies. This would help reduce the effects of allergic triggers.
iii. You can also start keeping a record of your day to day activities that trigger your allergies. For example, if you have food allergies, create a list of the types of foods that trigger your allergies and make conscious efforts to avoid them.
If eventually your allergies are triggered, here a few tricks that may help:
i. Avoid being exposed to allergens.
ii. Try to stay indoors on dry and windy days. Pollens are usually floating in the air on windy days.
ii. If possible, avoid home activities that stir up allergens e.g lawn mowing and weed pulling.
iii. Take a shower to remove pollens from your hair and skin after going out.
iii. Keep your house humid.
iv. Rinse your sinuses.
v. If possible, hang your laundry in places where they may not come in contact with pollens; preferably indoors.
vi. Wear a pollen mask while doing chores outside.
vii. Always check your local TV or listen to your local Radio stations for pollen forecasts.
viii. Always close your doors and windows at night time or at other times when pollen levels are high.