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WHAT AM I ALLERGIC TO?

So, What Are You Allergic To?

Even though allergies can be a big nuisance and cause a lot of discomfort, once correctly diagnosed effective treatments are available to eliminate or at least greatly reduce the symptoms.

When the weather gets warm, more than just the sun comes out. Trees are blooming and so are flowers. Grass is growing and all sorts of insects are out in full force – especially bees, mosquitoes and flies.  As life starts to hum again, so do your nose, your eyes and maybe your skin.  Guess what?  You may just have an allergy of some sort.

The types of allergies mentioned above are seasonal allergies, also referred to as allergic rhinitis or hay fever.  They’re caused by the body’s response to pollen from trees, flowers, grass, and mold spores that are present during particular seasons, usually spring.  Pet dander and dust allergies cause similar symptoms but are not usually seasonal in nature.

Besides seasonal allergies there are other types of allergic diseases that a person may suffer from.  A few that you hear about more often than others are latex allergies, drug allergies and food allergies. Symptoms of these allergies are caused by touching, ingesting or inhaling the offending allergen.  The exposure to these allergens produces hypersensitivity within the body that can have mild to life-threatening results.  These symptoms can be mistaken for other conditions so it’s important to have them checked out by your doctor so you can have your condition correctly diagnosed and treated.

TYPES OF ALLERGIC DISEASES

Different types of allergies display symptoms in different ways and different areas of the body. They don’t all have the same triggers. Some are more prevalent in childhood and may disappear later in life. Others are with you throughout your life. Some can be avoided or managed, while others demand the offending allergen be eliminated altogether to avoid potentially fatal consequences.

Seasonal Allergies

Allergic rhinitis is inflammation of the mucus membrane of the nose. Certain allergens cause an allergic reaction inside the body when they are present. The body releases histamine in an attempt to battle and destroy the offending substance. The results of this histamine release are the symptoms that are experienced by allergy sufferers.

The common causes of seasonal allergies vary and you may have a response to one or several of them. The list includes mold spores, dust mites, pollen of all types, irritants and pet dander. These are both indoor and outdoor allergies.

Outdoor allergies are usually caused by pollen that originates from trees, grass, flowers and weeds. At varying times of the season, one type of pollen may be more prevelant than another. These allergies can often be avoided or the symptoms reduced by staying away from areas that have pollen concentrations that you are allergic to. This can include groves of particular trees, fields of flowers or confined areas that contain plants that are shedding pollens that you are allergic to.

Indoor allergies are usually present year round. Dust mites are always in the air and can be greatly reduced by regular dusting and proper air filtration. Pets that live in the home are always shedding particles from their skin and hair. Mold can be found in warm, moist places like under sinks, bathrooms, and basements. You can buy air filters for your HVAC system that are designed to eliminate various sized particles in the air and are a big help in ridding the air in you home off allergen particles.

Irritants may also be present year round. They include smoke from fires, cigarettes, cigars, perfume, household cleaners or any other substance that may be inhaled or come in contact with the skin. If you have a fireplace or someone in your home smokes, those particles are hanging in the air even though you regularly change the air filters.

What are some of the symptoms of indoor and outdoor seasonal allergies? If you’re experience sneezing, coughing, runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, redness of the eyes, swollen eyelids, and/or nasal congestion or skin irritations like rashes and hives you are most likely reacting to an allergen in the environment. The symptoms of allergic rhinitis are not life-threatening but quite bothersome. More advanced issues like sinusitis could develop because of your seasonal allergies. People with allergies are more likely to develop asthma, which has the potential to be life-threatening.

Latex Allergy

This is a more common allergy than ever before. Latex is a product that is formed from the milky liquid found in rubber trees. It is a component of many things, from condoms to surgical gloves and from bandages to house paint. Latex products are made by dipping or molding. Dipping provides a coating of latex to the surface of certain products for greater integrity and protection. Molding implies that the entire product is probably manufactured from natural rubber latex.

You may be born with a predisposition to a latex allergy. Many others, however, have developed an allergy from increased exposure to the substance. This means that healthcare workers, those working in the rubber industry and frequent catheter users are at risk. You may have used latex gloves for years without seeing any type of problem before the exposure that triggered an allergic reaction within your body. Just like any other allergen, once your body reacts to it, the symptoms develop and will continue in the presence of the substance.

What are the symptoms of a latex allergy? Those affected may develop skin symptoms like rashes, hives, and redness, swelling and itching. Asthma-like symptoms may also develop: wheezing, nasal congestion, runny nose and chest tightness are also likely. If the condition is severe, anaphylaxis can cause airway compromise and possibly death if not treated. The severity of the reaction by the body depends on exposure method, amount and your level of sensitivity.

Latex allergy sufferers also show a predisposition to certain food allergies. If you have a confirmed latex allergy, be aware that these foods might also cause issues: papaya, avocados, apricots, chestnuts, kiwi and melon, to name a few.

Drug Allergies

Drug allergies are very common.  They can occur from the administration of  one or more components of an oral, injectable or topical medication.   The symptoms range from mild to life threatening anaphylactic shock. Most people are not aware of a medication allergy until they take the medication for the first time. The symptoms may present themselves in any part of the body, depending on the how the medication affects certain organs and tissues in the body.

Some medications are more likely than others to elicit an allergic reaction. It is best to read all of the fine print detailing side effects for any over-the-counter or doctor prescribed medication that you are using. Common medications that could cause allergies are penicillin and related antibiotics, sulfa drugs, chemotherapy drugs, pain relievers like aspirin and NSAIDs, anticonvulsant drugs, barbiturates and IV contrast dyes. Once you discover that you have developed an allergy, the idea is to avoid that drug from that point on. In the meantime, the purpose is to provide relief of the symptoms.

What are the symptoms of drug allergies? On the mild side, the symptoms include itching, rash, hives, itchy eyes and swelling. Depending on the route of the drug, you may experience abdominal pains and upset stomach. If the reaction is severe and life-threatening, anaphylaxis could occur resulting in wheezing, throat or mouth swelling, dizziness, fainting, drop in blood pressure and hypoxia.

Insect Sting Allergies

Insects that sting often release venom into their victims. When the victim is another insect or small animal, the effects could be paralyzing to the nervous system. This is the intention when the insect is protecting itself or hunting for food. In humans, the venom could elicit an allergic response by the body. This venom can cause mild symptoms or something more serious, depending on the insect and the person’s predisposition for an allergy to that substance.

Most people stung by insects have nothing more than a mild localized reaction. This is the body protecting itself as well. Still, deaths do occur occur each year as a result of severe reaction to insect venom.

The most common offenders are bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets and fire ants. The fire ants are a new one as they haven’t always been prevalent in the United States. Their numbers are increasing in southern United States and their bites are harmful as they usually attack in groups. As with other allergies, it takes at least one sting for the body to recognize it as a potential problem and send out the troops.

What symptoms occur with insect sting allergies? The site of the sting may be hot to the touch, there may be redness, swelling, rash, , hives, and pain and itching. This is a normal bodily reaction to the venom. For an allergy sufferer, the swelling and pain and redness may spread throughout the entire area such as a leg or arm. If stung again by the same type of insect, the reaction is more likely to be worse and can become life-threatening.

The symptoms of a anaphylactic reaction to insect stings include breathing difficulty, rapid pulse, dizziness, swelling of the face, lips and throat, anxiety and shock. Anaphylactic symptoms usually occur within the first two hours of exposure to any allergen that will elicit a severe response. Death may occur quite quickly after the onset of these symptoms. It is crucial that you get immediate medical attention at the first sign of distress.

Skin Allergies

The skin is the largest organ of the body. There is a lot of ground to cover when it comes to what may affect it and where it may show up. Skin allergies can result in a variety of lesions that may be mistaken for other conditions. There are several types of allergic diseases: atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis and hives (urticaria).

Atopic dermatitis is another name for eczema. The majority of sufferers are children but adults can also develop it. Children who have it may see it fade as they grow to adulthood, although they are more likely to develop other types of allergic diseases as a result.

The condition may be triggered by stress and allergies. Those who suffer may also develop asthma. High levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE) are also present. If you have a family history of allergies, the issues with your skin may be allergy related and not attributed to some other cause.

What are the symptoms of atopic dermatitis?   Symptoms include red, dry, itchy skin. Small bumps may develop that ooze a yellowish fluid.

Contact dermatitis requires the skin to come in contact with the allergen in question. It may be caused by water, detergent, metals, perfumes, latex particles, plants, adhesives, topical medications, shampoos and the like. The actual allergen in some cases is just one component of the irritant in question.

What are the symptoms of contact dermatitis? It includes redness, blistering, itching and burning. An added complication is allergens that become active when the allergen is exposed to sunlight after coming in contact with the skin. This is a photo-allergic response.

Hives (urticaria) is also an allergic skin disease. Hives result when small blood vessels leak under the skin. The cells that are responsible for the histamine release live along these vessels. Hives are a result of that release. The trigger may be food, medication, insect sting or a photo-allergic response. The condition can be acute or chronic depending on the amount of time it is present.

How do you know you are experiencing hives? They can be accompanied by angioedema (swelling in the tissues). Instead of the redness on the surface, it exists just below it, causing a pronounced swelling. Other symptoms include red bumps and welts on the skin. In order to determine the allergen that is the cause, other symptoms also have to be examined, not just the hives.

Food Allergies

These mostly develop in childhood and are often outgrown as the child approaches adulthood. Food allergies that are usually not outgrown include tree nuts, peanuts and shellfish allergies. When it comes to foods, the body develops a reaction to certain components of the particular food item that likely involves the immune system being overly sensitive to that particular component.

Food allergies are an abnormal reaction to a generally non-offending substance.   It is believed that the body has a genetic disposition towards allergies in individuals with food allergies. There is often a family history of allergies of some sort when food allergies are suspected. It may take more than one exposure (unless the first one is anaphylactic) to a food substance to make the connection to it as an allergen. Because foods travel throughout the digestive system, symptoms may develop in different organs along the way.

What are the symptoms of food allergies? They include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pains, hives, coughing, redness of the skin and skin itchiness. Food substances that elicit a more severe reaction can show symptoms such as swollen lips and throat, wheezing, difficulty breathing, trouble swallowing, dizziness, weak pulse, shortness of breath and shock. Without medical attention, a severe reaction can result in respiratory arrest, circulatory collapse and death.

CONCLUSION

Allergic diseases are a serious business. If you suspect an allergy, even with mild symptoms, see your doctor. Together you can diagnose, test and develop a treatment plan. The easiest treatment is allergen avoidance from that point forward. It is also the safest. In the meanwhile, medications like steroids, antihistamines, epinephrine and immunotherapy may be prescribed to ease current symptoms. Always report your allergies to medical professionals and on any medical form. This knowledge protects you and also ensures proper treatment in the event of an accidental exposure.

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Published inChronic IllnessesMedical Issues and Injuries

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