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Allergy overview:

An allergy is essentially the body’s reaction to a perceived danger. It is a chronic condition that causes an exaggerated reaction by the immune system in response to exposure to certain foreign substances.

These substances, known as allergens, are mainly harmless for non-allergic individuals and do not normally cause any bodily response, but for allergic individuals, the body recognizes these foreign substances as invaders. Subsequently, it triggers the immune system to generate an antibody response.

Allergies do not occur the first time a person gets exposed to the allergen. This will happen over time as the body starts building a certain sensitivity to the substance.

Some of the different types of allergens can include aeroallergens such as dust mite, mold, grass, pollen, and tree weed, or food allergens such as milk, egg, fish proteins, soy, wheat, and nuts.

When the body is exposed to an allergen, the immune system starts producing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE) that travel and attach themselves to special cells called mast cells.

When the allergen gets in contact with these antibodies, the mast cells respond by releasing histamine that causes an allergic reaction such as swelling and inflammation in certain areas of the body.

There are several types of allergies including food allergies, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), insect and drug allergies, seasonal allergies (winter, spring, summer, and fall), dust allergies, pet allergies, and eczema.

Some allergies are not as common as others. For instance, seasonal allergies result from contact with grass, weed, tree pollen, or molds during specific seasons. However, allergies to pet dander are very common.

More than 50 million Americans have an allergy of some kind, and while most allergies can't be cured, treatments can help relieve the allergy symptoms.

The severity of allergies varies from one person to another. Most allergic reactions are mild-to-moderate irritations that do not cause major problems, although they can cause extreme discomfort or irritation.

Nevertheless, some people might experience anaphylaxis (anaphylactic shock), which is a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that requires immediate life-saving medication.

Allergy history:

The modern study of allergies began in the 1800s when Dr. John Bostock described hay fever for the first time in history. This continues to be one of the most common allergic reactions, affecting approximately 15 million people in the United States.

In 1869, the first skin test for allergies was documented. In this examination, a small cut was made in the patient’s skin. After that, pollen was introduced in the skin to evaluate the possible response to pollen.

In 1914, the idea of immunotherapy was first tested. The theory behind it was to build up the immune system through the administration of injections containing allergens to help people cope with their allergies. Through the constant exposure to the allergens in these injections, the individual gained resistance, resulting in a reduction of allergy symptoms.

In the late 1930s, antihistamines became widely used. They work on reducing histamines, which are human-made substances that create inflammation in the areas affected by the allergens.

In 1948, corticosteroids started to be used for allergies. A corticosteroid is a medication that reduces the immune system’s response. As a result, it reduces symptoms related to allergic reactions.

In 1953, the discovery of mast cells further developed the knowledge of the immune system and allergic reactions. In 1963, IgE antibodies were discovered, and that played a fundamental role in understanding the relationship between allergens and their reactions in the human body.

In the 1980s, Professor Samuelson won a Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology for his work with leukotrienes, which are human-made substances that cause inflammatory responses to foreign substances.

Nowadays, medicine has evolved tremendously, and there are several methods available to diagnose and treat various forms of allergies.

Allergy symptoms:

Allergies symptoms might vary from person to person, but they typically include itchy and runny nose and/or eyes, skin rashes, bowel irritation, and asthma.

The various symptoms related to the different types of allergies are listed below:

- Seasonal allergies symptoms can be itchy eyes, nose, or skin; runny nose and/or watery eyes. You may also experience rash, sneezing, nasal congestion, wheezing, coughing, or dark circles under the eyes.

- Food allergy symptoms can be nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, tingling in the mouth, hives, and anaphylaxis. It can also include swelling of the lips, tongue, face, or throat.

- Hay fever symptoms (allergic rhinitis): also called, can be sneezing, itchy nose, eyes or roof of the mouth, runny and stuffy nose, and also watery, red, or swollen eyes (conjunctivitis).

- Pet allergy symptoms can be sneezing, runny or stuffy nose; facial pain (from nasal congestion); coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and wheezing; watery, red, or itchy eyes; skin rash or hives.

- Insect sting allergy symptoms can be pain, redness, swelling (edema) at the sting site; itching, hives all over the body, flushing, cough, chest tightness, wheezing, shortness of breath, or anaphylaxis.

- Drug allergy symptoms can be hives, itchy skin, facial swelling, rash, wheezing, or anaphylaxis.

- Atopic dermatitis (also called eczema) symptoms can be itchy, red, or flakey skin or anaphylaxis.

Some types of allergies, including allergies to foods and insect stings, can trigger a severe reaction known as anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock. It usually occurs when the allergen is ingested (food) or injected (bee sting). It can be an emergency that requires immediate medical attention. It can affect multiple organs at the same time. The blood vessels dilate, resulting in a drop in blood pressure.

The symptoms are:

• Hives or red discoloration of the skin

• Nasal congestion

• Swelling of the throat

• Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting

• Shortness of breath, wheezing

• Low blood pressure or shock

Allergy causes:

An allergy occurs because the body overreacts to substances such as allergens that are usually harmless. However, some people might develop hypersensitivity to these substances over time, triggering an allergic reaction.

The different allergens are classified into the subcategories listed below:

  •  Airborne allergens: such as pollen, dust, and mold.
  •  Some foods: such as peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, eggs, and milk.
  •  Insect stings: such as from a bee or wasp.
  •  Pet fur: such as fur from cats or dogs
  •  Household chemicals: such as triclosan, ammonia, or hydrochloric acid.
  •  Metals: such as nickel, chromium, and zinc
  •  Medications: such as penicillin or penicillin-based antibiotics.
  •  Some substances you touch: such as latex which can cause allergic skin reactions.

Allergy risk factors:

Alongside the exposure to allergens, an allergic reaction can be also mediated by other factors such as genetics, environment, and diet.

Genetics: while allergies can develop at any age, the risk of developing allergies is related to genetics and family history of allergy. Research has found that if neither parent is allergic, the chance of having allergies is about 15%, but if one parent is allergic, the risk can increase to 30%. If both are allergic, the risk of developing allergies can be 60%.

Environment: studies have shown that there is a possible connection between the environment a person is exposed to during their childhood and the development of an allergy. Children that have been exposed to a large number of allergens might gain resistance to those specific allergens and retain that resistance throughout their adult life.

Food diet: the gut microbiome (the microbes community living in the intestine) that is unique to every person is highly influenced by our food diet. Accordingly, it is a very important factor that can influence allergy by altering the immune system response. Hence, it can play a major role in our overall health as well.

Allergy diagnosis:

The individual’s medical history is the most important part of diagnosing an allergy. It is crucial to gather information regarding the patient’s health, lifestyle, genetic predisposition, and symptoms.

Along with that, the doctor can use skin testing, as it is the gold standard allergy test. Another less preferred option is blood testing. Both these tests can analyze the patient’s reaction to a great variety of allergens like plant pollens, molds, dust mites, animal dander, insect stings, and various foods such as peanuts, eggs, wheat, shellfish, and milk. Testing also is available for some medications, such as penicillin.

There are two main types of skin tests available:

The prick test: this test involves the doctor making various small punctures with allergens on the inside of your arms or back. These punctures are very small, so if they become red or swollen, it indicates an allergic reaction to that specific allergen.

The intradermal test: this test involves the doctor injecting allergens in the very external and superficial part of the skin with a very small needle. This type of test is usually done when the prick test does not have a clear response.

In most cases, skin testing is very accurate, but allergy blood tests might be used in specific situations. For example, if the individual has severe skin rashes or uses a medication that interferes with the results of the skin test, it’s recommended to use allergy blood tests instead of skin tests to get more accurate results.

The blood drawn from the blood test is sent to a laboratory to evaluate if there are specific antibodies for the introduced allergen. The test is marked as positive for that allergen if the antibodies are present.

Natural treatments for allergy:

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The best way to deal with an allergy is to prevent it by avoiding all the things that trigger it.

Some natural solutions work on controlling inflammation to control the allergy symptoms because when an allergy occurs, it is always accompanied by inflammation

Other natural solutions focus on strengthening the immune system or making it less sensitive to allergens because an allergy is triggered by an exaggerated immune system response.


The various natural solutions to treat allergy:

There is an array of natural solutions for allergies, many of which may help alleviate the severity of symptoms. The solutions listed below may either help reduce the frequency of an allergy or provide some relief from its symptoms.

Using a combination of the treatments listed below would better help you overcome several issues and treat this condition more effectively.

- Diets: there are different types of diets used to overcome inflammation. Some of these focus on consuming special types of food that have anti-inflammatory effects. At the same time, they exclude pro-inflammatory foods.

Other diets work on regulating the blood pH and help reset it back to its normal level which is slightly alkaline between 7.35 and 7.45.  Some people believe that having an alkaline blood pH can have tremendous health effects on the body, including strengthening the immune system and reducing inflammation. These diets can help cure many chronic diseases.

- Nutritional supplements: there’s a variety of nutritional supplements that can be used to fight allergies. Some supplements have anti-inflammatory properties that can fight inflammation in allergies. They can also ease allergy symptoms and help treat the condition. For instance, taking vitamin C daily strengthens the immune system and helps reduce histamine levels. Hence, it can reduce the intensity of allergic reactions.

- Herbal medicine: some special herbs and plants have anti-inflammatory effects that can help fight inflammation and treat allergy symptoms. For example, peppermint essential oil has anti-inflammatory effects that reduce the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.

- Immunotherapy: immunotherapy involves injecting the patient with allergens over a period of time, gradually increasing the dosage. The person’s immune system will then become stronger and less sensitive to the allergen.

Medical treatment for allergy:

According to conventional medicine, there are no cures for allergies. However, patients can take prescription drugs that focus on relieving allergy symptoms. Some of these drugs include:

- Antihistamines: antihistamines are medications used mainly for hay fever and other allergies. These medications counter the effects of histamines, substances made by the body to help the immune system fight invading bacteria or viruses. Benadryl and Chlor-Trimeton are examples of antihistamines that relieve allergy symptoms but they can cause drowsiness.

- Decongestants: decongestants can help clear a stuffy nose and sinus congestion. These medications shrink the nasal blood vessels and open up nasal passages.  One example of a decongestant includes Afrin Nasal Spray.

- Nasal Corticosteroids: nasal corticosteroids are medications that relieve symptoms by reducing the inflammation caused by an allergen. Examples include Flonase and Nasacort can help relive nasal stiffness, sneezing, and a runny nose.

- Epinephrine: auto-injectable epinephrine is used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions. It is used to reverse potentially fatal symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, throat swelling, a weak pulse, and hives. Examples of auto-injectable epinephrine include EpiPen or Auvi-Q.

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