Jump into Spring, Allergy-Free!
Allergies are among the most common chronic conditions worldwide. Symptoms range from making you miserable to putting you at risk of life-threatening reactions. An allergic reaction begins in the immune system. Our immune system protects us from invading organisms that can cause illness. If you have an allergy, your immune system mistakes an otherwise harmless substance as an invader. This substance is called an allergen. The immune system overreacts to the allergen by producing Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. These antibodies travel to cells that release histamine and other chemicals, causing an allergic reaction.
An allergic reaction typically triggers symptoms in the nose, lungs, throat, sinuses, ears, lining of the stomach or on the skin. For some people, allergies can also trigger symptoms of asthma. In the most serious cases, a life-threatening reaction, called anaphylaxis, can occur. A number of different allergens are responsible for allergic reactions. The most common include: • Pollen • Dust • Food • Insect stings • Mold • Medications/Drugs
Allergies occur across the age, sex and race spectrum. An allergy can start at any age, although children are most vulnerable to allergies, especially allergic rhinitis. Boys younger than 10 years of age are twice as likely as girls in this age group to have symptoms of allergies to airborne substances. – Heredity: If one parent is allergic, a child runs a risk of 30-50% of inheriting the tendency to be allergic, although he or she may not necessarily develop the parent’s particular type of allergy. If both parents have allergies, their children have a 60-80% likelihood of developing allergies. – Environment: Although heredity can determine whether you’ll have an allergy or not, it’s usually the environment that either protects you from developing the allergy, or sets the process in motion. Some exposures promote allergies in individuals, as well as their offspring (e.g. polluted environments, exposure to cigarette smoke, and consumption of unhealthy foods and sugary drinks). On the other hand, some exposures in the environment are protective, for example fermented foods, high-fiber diets and exposure to farm animals.
Avoiding Allergy Triggers
Depending on your specific allergies, some preventive maintenance at home could help boost invulnerability to the environment, and reduce your risk of allergic reactions. The most important step is to limit exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, which is a non-allergic trigger of symptoms in people with allergies. Not everyone needs to avoid all allergens. If you’re not allergic to something, it’s unnecessary to remove it from your environment. Use the guide below to reduce your exposure to specific allergens: House dust mite allergy Use special mattresses and pillow covers to control your exposure. Regular vacuuming gets rid of dust mites and other airborne allergens. Consider using an air conditioner in your home and car, and changing the filters often. Get rid of old bedding, toys, clothing and other items that may be carriers of dust and mold. Remove overstuffed furniture and carpets. Pet allergy Everyone knows how difficult a pet allergy can prove to manage since most of us love pets! Helpful advice would therefore be to make sure to feed and brush your pets outside. Try to minimalise contact as much as possible and be knowledgeable of your symptoms. Pollen If you you’re allergic to pollen, the most effective measure is to limit your outdoor activity between 5am and 10am, as pollen levels are at their highest during this time. Mold If you’re allergic to mold, it’s best to keep the number of houseplants in your home to a minimum, as they promote mold growth. Store firewood outside and eliminate straw and jute from your home. Air-conditioners help control humidity, which can limit the growth of mites and molds, and eliminate spores from the air.
The most common treatments for allergies are:
- Asthma pumps: There are two major types of asthma medications: those that are used every day to control inflammation, and thus prevent symptoms from occurring (controller pumps) and those that are merely in case of emergency, used to treat symptoms during an exacerbation (reliever pumps).
- New antihistamines: These block the excessive release of histamine by the body’s mast cells in body tissue (histamine causes the allergic reaction).
- Nasal corticosteroids: These control inflammation and stop allergic reactions. At the same time, these anti-inflammatory substances reduce nasal swelling and mucus secretions.
- Topical creams or skin ointments: Mostly used for the treatment of eczema, emollients keep the skin moist and prevent flares, while topical steroids heal the inflammation in the skin.
- Antibiotics: This may be necessary to treat complications such as the ear, skin and sinus infections that are common in children with allergies.
- Decongestants: They shrink swollen nasal tissues, thereby relieving congestion. These drugs are sometimes combined with an antihistamine to help control nasal symptoms effectively. They shouldn’t be used continuously for more than a week, as they may worsen the nasal mucosal swelling.
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