What are Allergies?
Allergies are a common condition affecting more than one out of every 5 people. Allergies are an abnormal response of the immune system triggered by a typically harmless substance. Substances, such as pollen, mold or animal dander, are known as allergens. When a person is exposed to an allergen, their bodies produce antibodies and release a variety of chemicals including histamine. Histamine is the main cause for most allergy symptoms.
What Causes Allergies?
The exact cause of allergies depends on which allergen a patient's body will react to. Most allergies are inherited, however, the allergen affecting the child is not necessarily the same as the one that affects the parent. In addition, people with asthma are more likely to suffer from allergies.
Allergies can be seasonal and some patients may only have reactions during certain times of the year. This condition is known as allergic rhinitis or hay fever and is usually caused by pollen and other allergens that are in the air from March until November. Patients can also be affected by allergies in certain weather conditions.
Since many allergens are found in the air, patients typically have a reaction in the eyes, nose, and lungs. However, if the allergen is ingested, the reaction can occur in the mouth or stomach. Most allergic reactions result in mild symptoms that include sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, headaches, itching or rashes. Moderate or severe reactions, called anaphylaxis, are rare but can be life-threatening and cause abdominal pain, cramps, vomiting and dizziness. Common allergens that cause more serious reactions include bee stings, penicillin, and peanuts.
How Do I Prevent Symptoms?
You can work to prevent symptoms from occurring by identifying the triggers that cause your symptoms and then trying to avoid them as much as possible. When symptoms do arise, they can be treated through medications, antihistamines, nasal sprays or decongestants, among other methods. There is no set treatment that works more efficiently than others, so it is important to find out which treatment works best for you. Our physicians at ENT Faculty Practice recommend wearing sunglasses while outside and washing your hands frequently. This can help to keep you free of contamination.
Although there is no cure for allergic reactions, there are many different treatment options available to help control the symptoms of allergies. Allergy treatment usually includes over-the-counter medication or prescription medication.
These medications can include antihistamines which prevent the reaction from the release of histamine, a decongestant which unblocks nasal passages and improve breathing, or a nasal spray which keeps the nasal passages clean and moist. All limit the symptoms that come from the allergens and some can be used in combination. However, the most effective treatment in relieving allergy symptoms is simply to avoid the allergen.
Our physicians are specially trained to identify the specific allergens that trigger reactions in each person and will help you develop the best defense against your individual allergies. A customized prevention and treatment plan helps relieve symptoms and allows patients to enjoy a higher quality of life. While you may not be able to completely prevent allergies from affecting you, they do not have to be a burden to your everyday life.
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