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What are the causes of Allergies? How to Get Yours Diagnosed and Treated?

I am Aabis Ashfaq from Pakistan. I am studying in Pharm-D (Doctor of Pharmacy) at the University of Lahore.

What is allergy?

Allergy is the name for a family of conditions in which your immune system reacts unusually to something you come into contact with.

Allergic reactions can affect different parts of the body in different ways:

The allergy affects mainly the skin, respiratory, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular systems. The allergy develops gradually after being exposed to certain food or other substances. Frequently allergy is associated with hay fever (allergic rhinitis). Allergies are caused by an improper function of white blood cells, producing antibodies against antigens-foreign substances harmful to the body. Antibodies are produced because foreign proteins or antigenic components are present in food or drugs that have been swallowed or injected intravenously.

What are the types of Allergies?

There are three main types of allergy. Several other types exist, but these are the most common abnormalities that people deal with every day.

1. Food Allergy

The first type of allergy is a food allergy. Food allergy can be identified by hives or swelling within minutes or hours after eating a certain foodstuff, caused by the body's immune system mistakenly thinking that this food is harmful and triggering histamine release. As a result, acute symptoms may occur, such as itching, reddening of the skin (hives), swallowing problems (throat tightness), or vomiting, to name a few examples. Symptoms may also come later, such as abdominal pain and diarrhea after one to three days in adults; fever; blood in feces; not feeling well (malaise); and skin allergy (eczema).

2. Respiratory Allergy

The second type of allergy is respiratory allergy. Respiratory allergy can be identified by sneezing, runny nose, or postnasal drip, caused by the body's immune system mistakenly thinking that pollen or other allergy-inducing substances are harmful and triggering histamine release. As a result, acute symptoms may occur, such as itchy eyes, sneezing, a blocked/runny nose, wheezing, mouth breathing, coughing, hoarse voice, and dizziness, to name a few examples. Symptoms may also come later, such as nasal congestion lasting more than 10 days in adults and children older than one year without flu symptoms; sinus problems, allergy-induced asthma; and allergy-induced pneumonia.

3. Skin Allergy

The third type of allergy is skin allergy, also known as allergic dermatitis or eczema. Skin allergy can be identified by rash caused by the body's immune system mistakenly thinks that contact with certain substances is harmful and triggers histamine release. As a result, acute symptoms may occur such as itchiness, redness (erythema), bumps/hives on the skin surface resembling mosquito bites; fluid-filled bumps under the skin (weeping vesicles); blisters not containing fluid (dry vesicles), to name a few examples. Some people may only develop rash without itching, while others develop both at the same time.

How To Treat Allergy?

An allergy occurs when the immune system overreacts and attacks substances that are usually harmless, such as pet dander, pollen, or food. Usually, the body's immune system makes proteins called antibodies to help fight off these substances. If you have allergies, your immune system mistakes harmless substances for invaders and creates antibodies that identify them as harmful. These antibodies then signal your immune system to release chemicals like histamine, making you feel itchy, sneezy, and generally unwell.

There are only specific treatments for allergy. The most common treatment is reliever medicine such as allergy shots, antihistamines (make the allergy symptoms less severe), and leukotriene modifiers (decrease allergy symptoms).

Allergy can be treated with immunotherapy, which releases allergy shots in a controlled manner so that allergy sufferers can gradually build up immunity to allergens over an extended time. This method was developed in 1911 and is still used today.

Medication of Allergies

Medications can be over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription. Many common medications use active ingredients like antihistamine diphenhydramine (Benadryl), decongestants pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), and others.

Antibiotics like penicillin also fall into the category of allergy medications. Its generic name, diphenhydramine HCI, may also call Benadryl.

The United States Food and Drug Administration has approved this drug to treat allergies, motion sickness, and insomnia. Diphenhydramine belongs to a group of drugs called antihistamines.

An opioid allergy is an allergic reaction to opioids such as morphine, oxycodone, codeine, hydrocodone, or fentanyl. Although not everyone who uses these drugs will experience an allergic reaction, sometimes even taking them for the first time can cause serious side effects. Some people have allergies to specific ingredients in certain medications and become immediately ill when they take them. Other times it may be a delayed reaction that appears several days after using the drug.

What should we avoid during allergy?

  1. Avoid eating certain foods that are high in histamines, such as bananas, strawberries, tomatoes, and pineapple
  2. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration
  3. If you have a pet, keep them away from your bedroom, so they don't spread allergens on your bedding or pillows
  4. Keep windows closed during allergy season to prevent outside pollen from coming inside the house
  5. Clean your home regularly with an allergen-neutralizing cleaner to remove dust mites and other allergens which can trigger allergies
  6. Use a humidifier at night if necessary to help moisten dry air, which can lead to congestion

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