Allergy Overview, Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Causes, Treatments, Medications

By Ted ReevesJan 01, 202160

Allergy Overview, Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Causes, Treatments, Medications

Allergy is a sudden and intense immune response to a foreign substance. These foreign substances are known as allergens. Our immune system is responsive to foreign particles, which are detected as pathogens. However, an allergen is a non-pathogenic substance. They get attacked by immune cells to save your body from any harm. Depending on the types of allergens, the immune response range differs from mild to adverse. Usually, the immune system can differentiate between an unharmful allergen and a potential pathogen. Therefore, not everyone suffers from allergies. However, people with allergies detect the invader as a threaten to the body and acts it. So, allergies are common. Allergic symptoms can be controlled, but allergies are untreatable.

As mentioned before the allergic reactions can be mild or severe. The severe allergic reaction is also known as Anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening condition. In such a case, take medical help right away. If you have an epinephrine auto-injector, use it if within 15 minutes symptoms do not heal. However, even after taking the shot, you need to visit your health professional.

Types of Allergies

Individuals can be allergic to several types of allergens. Below mentioned are some common allergies that people experience.

  • Pollen

Pollen allergy is also commonly known as hay fever and allergic rhinitis. It is an allergy that impacts the respiratory system and causes symptoms, such as sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, inflamed airway, Nasal congestion, and inflammation in the nose. You can avoid pollen by reducing exposure to pollen. One can take some medicines such as anti-histamine drugs.

  • Dust mites

Dust mites are tiny organisms that are present on fabrics, in dust, household objects, etc. Dust mites tend to found in humid and warm regions. However, they can cause similar symptoms, such as pollen allergy. For reducing the growth of such mites at your home, try to use the dust mite encasements like plastic covers for covering objects. Maintain the cleanliness and vacuum your carpet frequently. Treatment may include medicines for controlling symptoms. In adverse cases immunotherapy is the alternative when drugs and avoidance fail to work.

  • Molds

Molds are a type of fungi; their spores sustain in the free-floating form in the air. Mold is a common allergic trigger. Molds can be found on different objects and in the far corners of your home, damp areas (kitchen, bathroom, under the sink, etc.) or under mushrooms, on piles of leaves, etc. Inhaling these spores can lead to the triggering of the intense immune response. The treatment is associated with nasal, eye, and chest symptoms.

  • Animal dander

The allergy towards animal dander occurs due to the proteins secreted by the animal’s sweat glands and skin. Exposure to the proteins present in the saliva of an animal can also stimulate an immune response. Basic measures and avoiding animal dander can prevent allergic reactions. For those who have pets, keep them out of your bedroom or use HEPA filters.

  • Food allergies

A food allergy occurs when consumption of a specific food item leads to an allergic reaction. The food protein is detected as an allergen by the immune system and results in symptoms. Food allergies stimulate the production of IgE antibodies in our system. Milk, Egg, Peanut, Tree Nut, Soy, Wheat, Fish, and Shellfish are the eight food items that commonly cause food allergies.

  • Insect Allergy

Bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets, and fire ants generate allergic reactions. These are stinging insects. However, non-stinging insects can also trigger an allergic reaction. The common ones are cockroaches and dust mites. The symptoms of insect allergies are hives, itching, swelling, pain, etc.

  • Latex allergy

Latex is a protein derived from the sap of the Brazilian rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). It is also known as natural rubber. A person allergic to latex can generate allergic reactions when he encounters Balloons, Rubber bands, Condoms, diaphragms, Rubber household gloves, Rubber balls, Bandages, etc. The common symptoms of latex allergy include hives, itching, swelling, runny nose, sneezing, and nasal congestion.

Symptoms of Allergy

The allergic reactions and symptoms vary in each person. The symptoms also differ based on the type of allergen. However, the most common symptoms are:

  • Itchy skin, rash, hives
  • Watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Trouble in breathing
  • Swelling of body parts exposed to the allergen
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting

Diagnosis of Allergy

If an individual thinks he has an allergy, his doctor may help him recognize it by asking him some questions.

  • Specific symptoms that you have observed
  • When they occur or how often they occur
  • What leads to such symptoms
  • Family history of allergies

After these questions, your doctor may ask you to take some tests. Below mentioned are some tests used to detect allergies.

Blood tests: Also known as an antibody test. This test checks the levels of IgE antibodies in your system. It is produced in a higher amount against an allergen.

Skin prick tests: Your doctor will prick the skin with a small amount of a possible allergen. If the skin reacts against the allergen, the results are known.

Patch tests: This test helps determine whether you have eczema; your doctor may stick a metal disc with a small amount of allergen to the person’s back. He will check the reaction of the skin.

Causes of Allergy

It is a body’s general immune response when it detects a harmful or nonharmful allergen. However, when the non-harmful allergen invades, it triggers an immune response. The non-harmful allergens are pollen, animal dander, mold, dust, foods, insect venom, latex, etc. When an allergic reaction occurs, the body produces higher levels of IgE. These antibodies help to neutralize foreign substances. First, the antibody identifies this allergen; later, a specific chemical such as Histamine is produced, which stimulates various symptoms. The blood vessels get contracted, and mucous is secreted, which results in a runny nose, coughing, sneezing, etc.

Treatments of Allergy

Medications to Treat Allergy

 Antihistamine drugs are commonly advised for controlling symptoms. As said earlier, allergies are incurable. One can only control the symptoms by taking medicines. The medication can be over the counter or prescription-based. Your doctor may advise you of the drugs based on the severity of the symptoms.

The common anti-allergy medicines are:

  • antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • corticosteroids
  • cetirizine (Zyrtec)
  • loratadine (Claritin)
  • cromolyn sodium (Gastrocrom)
  • decongestants (Afrin, Suphedrine PE, Sudafed)
  • leukotriene modifiers (Singulair, Zyflo)

Immunotherapy

People dealing with different types of allergies also opt for Immunotherapy. This treatment involves various injections over time for several years so that the body gets used to the allergen. Successful immunotherapy can prevent allergy symptoms from relapsing.

Emergency Epinephrine

Individuals dealing with severe allergic reactions can take the emergency epinephrine shot. The shot works to control the allergic reaction until the medical help arrives. The common brands that are used are EpiPen and Twinject.