My body is itchy, and I have pimples all over my face and hands. Could it be a reaction to the pollens that fell on me earlier? Or perhaps the peanut butter in the bread? There could be other stuff I may be allergic to but what should I do? - One may ask.
Allergies are abnormal reactions that occur when your immune system mistakenly identifies a substance as harmful. Allergens are the substances that cause allergy or allergic reaction. Naturally, our immune system fights against any harmful foreign material entering our body such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, etc. Simply put, our immune system keeps us healthy and helps us fight infections. However, our immune system sometimes overreact to false alarm from certain substances which may be in our environment or substances we intentionally consumed which are generally not harmful to our body. As stated early on, these substances are termed as allergens.Substances that may cause allergic reactions include: pollen, food, medicines, dust, insect bites (mites) and so on. Some foods that can cause allergic response include: peanut, milk, shellfish, eggs, wheat, etc.
How does allergic reaction occur?
Our system is made up of blood which circulates in the body. The blood comprises of
Red blood cells which transport oxygen and carbon dioxide in and out of cells respectively.
Blood platelets which help blood to clot whenever there is a cut on the skin and finally
White blood cells which defend body against diseases.The white blood cells are made up of phagocytes and lymphocytes.
The phagocytes ingest any bacteria that may enter our body and lymphocytes produce antibodies that fight diseases.During an allergic response, these lymphocytes produce a type of antibody called Immunoglobulin E(IgE). It is these antibodies that mount an allergic response anytime your body comes into contact with an allergen. Mostly, a patient may not react to an allergen on the first exposure. This is because the body is now forming or building an antibody against that particular allergen. However, on the next exposure to an allergen, a patient may experience the allergic reaction which is mostly under the influence of a chemical called histamine and other inflammatory chemicals. That may be one of the reasons why a person may not react to an allergen at first, for example, peanut but upon subsequent exposure, will produce an allergic reaction.
How do I know if I'm having an allergic response?
Allergies may be mild or severe. These allergens can cause symptoms on the skin, mouth, blood vessels and nasal cavity.
Remember, the chemicals released by the activities of the antibodies(IgE) causes the symptoms of allergies. The chemicals (histamine, etc) causes mucus secretion which results in mild reactions such as runny nose, sneezing and watery eyes, stimulation of sensory nerves resulting in itching of the skin , rashes and swelling.
Furthermore, these chemicals may cause dilation and increased permeability of blood vessels which may lead to severe reactions causing bronchospasm (a narrowing and obstruction of the breathing airways) resulting in difficulty in breathing. Also, anaphylaxis may occur as a result of an over-release of chemicals that puts the person into shock. Allergies to food, insect stings, medications and latex are most frequently associated with anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a sudden and severe allergic reaction that may cause death.
How allergies develop.
Interestingly, we can develop genes from our parents that can make us allergic to certain substances but not necessarily the substances our parents are allergic to. Thus, a mother may be allergic to milk but the child may end up developing an allergy to wheat and okay with milk. Furthermore, a person can just end up developing an allergy suddenly. Scientists still are not sure why.
Detection of allergies.
One may not accurately determine what exactly he or she is allergic to. The best thing to do is to visit a doctor. Skin prick test may be done if the doctor suspects you have a mild symptom or a blood test in severe cases.
During skin prick test, Your provider will place small drops of specific allergens at different spots on your skin.Your provider will then lightly scratch or prick your skin through each drop.If you are allergic to any allergens, you will develop a small red bump at the site or sites within about 15 to 20 minutes.
With blood test, a blood sample is taken and tested to observe if the individual has the antibody specific to a certain allergen.
Again , an oral food challenge may be performed on individuals. During this test, a person is made to ingest a food which the individual is suspected to be allergic to. It takes few minutes to hours. If the individual react to it then, the individual's allergy is confirmed.
What kind of people develop allergies?
Allergies affect everyone of every age. However, its common among children and predominant in developed nations. One school of thought suggests that, if children become exposed to allergens at an early age, especially those related to dust and pet dander, their immune system becomes used to them and friendly towards them but children in developed nations are not exposed to these allergens at a tender age and hence, later when exposed to some of them, their immune system overreacts, causing an allergic reaction.
How to deal with allergies.
The best way to deal with allergies is to stay away from them. As we all know, prevention is always better than cure. Whenever you buy something from the mall or a store, read the labels to confirm that, the substance especially the food you are allergic to is not present. Also, whenever you buy food from outside, inquire if any of your food allergies has been added to your order. It may not be easy but it prevents one from an uncomfortable situation.
People with milder symptoms may be given anti-histamine prescriptions. But epinephrine shot will be administered to individuals with severe reactions. Always visit a doctor when you suspect you have an allergy.
In conclusion, allergies has become part of us even if we hate it. Hence, we have go to do what ever we have to do to manage it. Remember, life doesn't get any easier, we make it better.
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