Dealing with Allergies

Allergies, whether to food or to other substances that are present in our daily lives, seem to be becoming more and more common. Allergic reactions occur when our immune systems attack substances which are not truly a threat, causing a variety of symptoms which range from mild itchiness to life-threatening asphyxia.

Older people may note that in their day, nowhere near as many people suffered from allergic reactions. Some people may dismiss this as a result of bias, less efficient medical care, or poor statistical analysis in the past. However, most scientists in the field do, in fact, believe that more of us are now allergic to something. The most popular theory is that as we have become more aware and paranoid of germs, we have become more sanitary. Our new, cleaner lifestyles have meant that fewer bacteria are introduced to our bodies, leaving our immune systems with nothing to fight. In the absence of any true “enemies,” the body begins to attack harmless substances such as pollen or a particular food.

Avoiding Your Allergens
The simplest way to avoid suffering from an allergic reaction is to abstain from contact with your allergens. In some cases, this is rather simple. For example, someone who is allergic to seafood can refuse to eat it.

The case of hay fever is a little more complicated. Should the sufferer choose to remain indoors on windy summer days, they would be advised to keep windows closed and instead use air conditioning. When drying clothes, use a machine or hang them inside, as clothes which are dried outside may be covered with pollen. This could mean that you will be sneezing all week.

Some conditions, such as an allergy to insect stings or bites, cannot be avoided due to their nature. Likewise, an allergy to pollen or dust may be difficult to deal with if your environment means that you are being constantly exposed to the offending substance.

Allergy shots, or immunotherapy, may be given to patients with these types of allergy. The patient is injected with gradually greater doses of the allergen until symptoms disappear. Another way to prevent reactions to certain allergens is to wear personalised medical alert jewellery. This way, medical professionals are made aware of your sensitivity and are able to adjust their procedures. For example, they may use latex-free gloves or avoid giving you certain drugs.

Acute Treatment
Those with severe allergies should carry a one-use injection of epinephrine at all times. When exposed to their allergen, these patients should immediately inject themselves and call their emergency number. Less severe reactions may be dealt with by corticosteroids to relieve swelling, or antihistamines to reduce other symptoms such as itchiness, nasal congestion and redness. Antihistamines may be either prescribed or bought over the counter, and can cause drowsiness when taken.

Paul Williams is a blogger and expert in the field of allergies. He lives in Brighton, England.