Allergies: A Comprehensive Look at Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
Allergies are a prevalent and complex issue faced by millions of individuals worldwide. In this article we will review the types causes and symptoms of allergies. These immune system reactions occur when the body encounters a foreign substance which trigger and allergy these substances include, but are not limited to: pollen, pet dander, or certain foods, and mistakenly identifies them as harmful. In response, the body produces antibodies to counteract these perceived threats, leading to various allergy symptoms and discomforts. This article, brought to you by Welzo, the online medical journal, aims to provide a comprehensive overview of allergies, their causes, symptoms, and available treatments, drawing upon expert opinions, scientific research, and statistical data.
What is an Allergy?
An allergy is a heightened immune system response to substances that are usually harmless to most people. These substances, known as allergens, can include pollen, pet dander, and certain foods. When a person with an allergy encounters these allergens, their immune system mistakenly identifies them as harmful and produces antibodies to counteract them. This immune response leads to various symptoms and discomforts, which can range from mild to severe depending on the individual's sensitivity to the allergen. By understanding the nature of allergies and how they manifest, those affected can better manage their symptoms and seek appropriate treatment to help prevent allergies.
What are the other terms for Allergies?
Allergies are also known as hypersensitivity reactions. According to Dr. Scott Sicherer, a leading allergy expert and professor of pediatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, hypersensitivity is a term that describes an exaggerated response by the immune system to specific substances, which are normally considered harmless (source). The word "hypersensitivity" highlights the overactive nature of the immune system in individuals with allergies.
Allergies can be referred to by various terms, depending on the type of allergen, the body system affected, and the specific immune response involved. Some of these terms include:
Atopy: A predisposition to develop allergic reactions, particularly involving the skin, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems. Atopy often has a genetic component and is associated with conditions such as asthma, eczema, and hay fever.
Anaphylaxis: A severe, life-threatening allergic reaction that can involve multiple body systems. It usually occurs rapidly after exposure to an allergen and requires immediate medical attention.
Contact dermatitis: A skin reaction that occurs when the skin comes into contact with an allergen, resulting in itching, redness, and inflammation.
Rhinitis: Inflammation of the nasal passages, which can be caused by allergic reactions to allergens such as pollen, dust mites, or pet dander. Symptoms include sneezing, nasal congestion, and a runny nose.
Allergies and Their Impact on the Body
When allergens enter the body of an allergic individual, the immune system reacts by producing antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies bind to specific cells, called mast cells and basophils, which then release various chemicals, such as histamine, that cause allergy symptoms (source).
The symptoms of allergies can manifest in various ways, depending on the allergen and the affected body system. Some common effects include: Respiratory system: Allergens such as pollen or pet dander can trigger sneezing, nasal congestion, and a runny nose. In more severe cases, allergic reactions can lead to shortness of breath, wheezing, and even asthma attacks. Skin: Allergens can cause various skin reactions, such as hives, rashes, or eczema.
These symptoms often involve itching, redness, and swelling of the affected area. Digestive system: Ingesting allergenic foods can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. For more information on allergies and their impact on the body, visit the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy website, which provides comprehensive resources on various types of allergies and their management.
How does Allergy Differ from Other Immune System Responses?
Allergies and other immune responses differ in varying ways. The immune system plays a crucial role in protecting the body from harmful substances, such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites. In a healthy immune response, the body recognises and eliminates these threats efficiently without causing harm to itself.
However, in the case of allergies, the immune system misidentifies harmless substances as harmful and mounts an exaggerated response. There are several key differences between allergies and other immune system responses: Triggering substances: In allergies, the immune system reacts to typically harmless substances, such as pollen or certain foods, whereas in other immune responses, the body is defending against genuinely harmful pathogens, such as bacteria or viruses.
Type of immune response: Allergies involve a specific type of immune response, mediated by immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies, mast cells, and basophils.
In contrast, other immune responses involve different types of antibodies, immune cells, and signalling molecules.
Symptoms: Allergic reactions often cause symptoms such as sneezing, itching, and swelling, which are not typically associated with other immune responses.
Conversely, symptoms like fever and muscle aches are common in immune responses to infections but are usually not present in allergic reactions. In summary, allergies differ from other immune system responses in terms of the triggering substances, the specific immune mechanisms involved, and the symptoms they cause. Understanding these differences is essential for proper diagnosis and management of allergies and other immune-related conditions.
What are the Different Types of Allergies?
Allergies can be broadly categorised based on the type of allergen involved and the body system affected, this can then be further categorised by the severity and how common the allergy is. The following sections provide an overview of various types of allergies, supported by medical data, expert quotes, and website links for further information.
Respiratory allergies are caused by airborne allergens, which can trigger symptoms in the nose, throat, and lungs. Some common respiratory allergies include: Allergic rhinitis: Also known as hay fever, this allergy is caused by allergens like pollen, dust mites, and pet dander. Dr. James T. Li, a specialist in allergy and immunology at Mayo Clinic, states that allergic rhinitis affects up to 30% of adults and 40% of children worldwide (source). Allergic asthma: Asthma triggered by allergens, such as pollen, mould spores, or pet dander, can cause symptoms like wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology provides comprehensive information on allergic asthma and its management.
Food allergies occur when the immune system reacts to specific proteins in certain foods, this is one of the most common allergies. Some common food allergies include: Cow's milk allergy: This is a common allergy, particularly among young children, which can cause symptoms like hives, vomiting, and, in severe cases, anaphylaxis (source). Peanut allergy: Affecting around 2.5% of children in the United States, peanut allergy can cause severe reactions, including anaphylaxis (source). The Food Allergy Research & Education website offers extensive resources on various food allergies, their symptoms, and treatment options.
Here is a list of the most common types of food allergies:
- Potato allergy - this occurs when someone is allergic potatoes.
- Strawberry allergy - quite a common allergy, induced by the enzymes present in strawberries.
- Yeast Intolerance/Allergy - A yeast allergy is when you system reacts to the proteins found in yeast, whereas an intolerance is where your body cannot tolerate yeast containing products well.
- Wheat allergy - According to WHO, roughly o.o2/0.05% of population faces a wheat allergy.
- Sugar allergy - is the bodys immune system triggering a reaction to certain sugars, this is a growing concern due to the increased usage of added sugars in typical western diets.
- Shellfish Allergy - This impacts roughly 2% of the adult population.
- Oat Intolerance - This is when the body unable to properly digest oats correctly which can suggest an intolerance, alternatively an allergy is an immune response trigger.
- Gluten Intolerance - A very common issue where individuals experience issues when digesting gluten.
- Lactose Intolerance - Where the body is not able to fully digest lactose.
- Corn allergy - Corn allergy occurs when the immune system mistakenly identifies corn proteins as s harmful substance.
- Caffeine Intolerance - Caffeine intolerance is a condition in which an individual experiences adverse reactions after consuming even small amounts of caffeine.
Here are further food intolerances and allergies, click on the headings to read extensive articles on these subjects:
- Beef allergy
- Allium Allergy
- Latex Allergy
- Pet Cat and Dog Allergies - although not a food related allergy, this type of allergy is often related to many immune responses. You can also read more about dog allergy tests here.
- Pineapple Allergies
- Onion Allergies
- McDonald's Meal Allergy - read this interesting article on the common food in a McDonalds meal that can trigger allergies.
- Banana Allergy
- Coconut Allergy
- Tomato Allergy
- Sulphite Allergy
- Egg Allergy
- Lupin Allergy
- Water Allergy
Skin allergies involve an immune response that leads to skin irritation and inflammation. Some common skin allergies include: Atopic dermatitis: Also known as eczema, this chronic skin condition often begins in childhood and is characterised by dry, itchy, and inflamed skin. According to the National Eczema Association, over 31 million Americans suffer from some form of eczema. Contact dermatitis: This skin reaction occurs when the skin comes into direct contact with an allergen, such as a nickel allergy, poison ivy, the sun, or certain chemicals in personal care products. A heat rash is another common skin allergy when the skin becomes inflamed due to exposure to heat. The American Academy of Dermatology provides detailed information on contact dermatitis, its triggers, and management. A c
Insect allergies are caused by stinging or biting insects, or by exposure to insect-derived substances. Examples of insect allergies include: Bee and wasp stings: Allergic reactions to bee and wasp stings can range from localised swelling and redness to life-threatening anaphylaxis. According to the Mayo Clinic, nearly 3% of adults who are stung by bees or wasps experience severe allergic reactions. 2. Mosquito bites: Although mosquito bites usually cause only mild itching and redness, some individuals can have more severe reactions, such as blistering, hives, or even anaphylaxis (source). The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology offers valuable resources on insect allergies, including prevention strategies and treatment options.
Drug & Medication Allergies
Drug allergies occur when the immune system reacts to certain medications. Some common drug allergies include: Penicillin allergy: According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, approximately 10% of people report having a penicillin allergy, though only about 1% of the general population is truly allergic. Symptoms can range from mild rash to severe anaphylaxis. Aspirin allergy: Some individuals may experience allergic reactions to aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), causing symptoms like hives, facial swelling, and, in rare cases, anaphylaxis (source). For more information on drug allergies and their management, visit the Mayo Clinic's Drug Allergy page.
Latex allergy is a reaction to proteins found in natural rubber latex, commonly used in gloves, balloons, and other products. Latex allergy can cause symptoms like itching, hives, and, in severe cases, anaphylaxis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers guidelines on latex allergy prevention and management in healthcare settings.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Allergies
Allergies can present a wide range of signs and symptoms, depending on the type of allergen and the body system affected. The following is a definitive list of common allergy symptoms:
Watery or itchy eyes: Allergens such as pollen, pet dander, or dust mites can cause irritation and itching in the eyes.
Sneezing: A common symptom in respiratory allergies, sneezing is often triggered by airborne allergens irritating the nasal passages.
Stuffy or runny nose: Nasal congestion or a runny nose can be caused by allergens, leading to discomfort and breathing difficulties.
Coughing: Coughing can be a symptom of respiratory allergies, as the body tries to clear the airways of allergens.
Scratchy throat: Allergens can cause irritation and inflammation in the throat, leading to discomfort and a scratchy sensation.
Rash or hives on the skin: In response to allergens, the skin may develop rashes or hives, which can be red, itchy, and swollen.
Swelling of the tongue, face, or lips: Swelling can occur in severe allergic reactions or anaphylaxis, requiring immediate medical attention.
Dizziness or fainting: In severe allergies, symptoms can include dizziness or fainting due to a sudden drop in blood pressure, signalling a potentially life-threatening reaction.
Shortness of breath or wheezing: In respiratory allergies, allergens can cause constriction of the airways, leading to difficulty breathing and wheezing.
Abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting: In food allergies, ingestion of allergenic foods can cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
It is important to note that the severity and combination of these symptoms can vary from one individual to another, and not all symptoms may be present in every allergic reaction. If you suspect you have an allergy, consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.
How to Identify Medication Allergies?
Identifying medication allergies can be challenging as symptoms may resemble those of other medical conditions or side effects of the medication itself. To determine if you have a medication allergy, consider the following steps:
Monitor symptoms: Note the onset, duration, and severity of symptoms after taking a particular medication. Common symptoms of drug allergies include rash, hives, itching, fever, and swelling.
Consult a healthcare professional: Discuss your symptoms with a doctor or allergist who can help determine if an allergy is the cause. They may perform tests, such as skin tests or blood tests, to confirm the diagnosis.
Elimination and reintroduction: With the guidance of a healthcare professional, you may be asked to stop taking the suspected medication and monitor for symptom improvement. If deemed safe, the medication may be reintroduced at a later time to observe if symptoms reoccur.
How to Distinguish Allergy Symptoms from Cold and Flu Symptoms?
While allergy, cold, and flu symptoms can overlap, there are key differences to help distinguish them:
Onset and duration: Allergy symptoms typically appear quickly after exposure to allergens and can last as long as the exposure continues. Cold and flu symptoms, on the other hand, develop gradually and usually resolve within one to two weeks. Fever and body aches: Fever and body aches are common in cold and flu but are typically not present in allergic reactions.
Itchy and watery eyes: These symptoms are more common in allergies than in cold and flu.
Nasal discharge: Allergic rhinitis often produces clear nasal discharge, while colds and flu can cause yellow or green discharge. Consulting a healthcare professional can help clarify the cause of your symptoms and guide appropriate treatment.
How Long Do Allergy Symptoms Typically Last?
The duration of allergy symptoms depends on the type of allergen and the individual's exposure:
Seasonal allergies: Symptoms may last for weeks or months, corresponding to pollen seasons.
Perennial allergies: Caused by allergens like dust mites or pet dander, symptoms can persist year-round if exposure continues.
Food and drug allergies: Symptoms usually subside within hours to days after the allergen is eliminated from the body. Reducing exposure to allergens and seeking appropriate treatment can help alleviate allergy symptoms more quickly.
Is it Possible to Have an Allergic Reaction to Anything New?
Yes, it is possible to develop an allergic reaction to a new substance or even a substance you have been exposed to previously. Factors that can contribute to the development of new allergies include:
Genetic predisposition: A family history of allergies increases the likelihood of developing allergies.
Repeated exposure: Frequent contact with an allergen may increase the risk of sensitisation and allergy development.
Age: Allergies can develop at any age, though some are more common in childhood, while others may appear in adulthood. If you suspect a new allergy, consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and management. You can also take an allergy test from Welzo to identify common allergens.
What are the Causes of Allergies?
Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to a substance that is normally harmless, known as an allergen. This overreaction is caused by the immune system's mistaken identification of the allergen as a potential threat, leading to the release of inflammatory substances like histamine. Various factors can contribute to the development of allergies, including genetic predisposition, environmental factors, and the individual's immune system.
Genetic predisposition plays a significant role in the development of allergies. If a person has a family history of allergies, they are more likely to develop allergies themselves. According to Dr. Scott Sicherer, a leading expert in allergy and immunology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, children with one allergic parent have a 30-50% risk of developing allergies, while those with two allergic parents have a 60-80% risk.
Environmental FactorsExposure to allergens in the environment can also influence the development of allergies. For example, living in an area with high pollen counts can increase the risk of developing hay fever. Furthermore, research published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggests that early-life exposure to allergens like pet dander and dust mites may increase the risk of developing allergies later in life.
Immune System Factors
The immune system's response to allergens is another factor contributing to the development of allergies. In susceptible individuals, the immune system produces Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies specific to certain allergens. Upon exposure to the allergen, these IgE antibodies bind to immune cells called mast cells, triggering the release of histamine and other inflammatory substances. This process, known as an allergic cascade, leads to allergy symptoms.
The hygiene hypothesis suggests that a lack of exposure to microbes during early childhood may lead to an increased risk of developing allergies. According to this theory, reduced exposure to microbes can result in an underdeveloped immune system, which may then overreact to allergens later in life. A study published in the Journal of Clinical & Experimental Allergy supports this hypothesis, finding that children who grow up in rural environments with more exposure to microbes have a lower risk of developing allergies.
Epigenetics, the study of heritable changes in gene expression not caused by changes in the DNA sequence, is another area of research exploring the causes of allergies. Environmental factors can influence epigenetic changes, which in turn can affect the immune system's response to allergens. A review published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology highlights the role of epigenetics in the development of allergies, demonstrating that certain environmental exposures can result in epigenetic changes associated with allergic diseases.
Can Allergies Develop at Any Age?
Yes, allergies can develop at any age. While it is more common for allergies to manifest during childhood, adults can also develop new allergies. Factors such as genetic predisposition, environmental exposure, and changes in the immune system can contribute to the development of allergies at different stages of life. A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that adults can develop allergies even if they did not experience them during childhood.
Are Allergies More Likely to Occur in Children?
Allergies are indeed more likely to occur in children, as their immune systems are still developing and may be more susceptible to allergens. However, the prevalence of allergies in adults should not be overlooked, as they can still develop new allergies or experience a resurgence of childhood allergies.
Are Allergies Hereditary?
Yes, allergies can be hereditary. A person with a family history of allergies has an increased likelihood of developing allergies themselves. As mentioned previously, children with one allergic parent have a 30-50% risk of developing allergies, while those with two allergic parents have a 60-80% risk. However, the specific type of allergy or the severity of symptoms may differ between family members.
What is the Likelihood of Passing Them Down to Children?
The likelihood of passing down allergies to children depends on the parents' allergy status. If one parent has allergies, the child's risk of developing allergies is 30-50%. If both parents have allergies, the risk increases to 60-80%.
Can Allergies be Triggered by Exposure to Certain Chemicals or Pollutants in the Workplace?
Yes, allergies can be triggered by exposure to certain chemicals or pollutants in the workplace. Occupational allergies can develop in response to various substances, including chemicals, dust, fumes, and animal dander. These allergies can manifest as respiratory symptoms, skin reactions, or other allergy-related symptoms. The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine provides examples of workplace allergens and their potential health effects.
Is it Possible for an Adult to Develop New Allergies?
Yes, it is possible for adults to develop new allergies. As previously mentioned, factors such as genetic predisposition, environmental exposure, and changes in the immune system can contribute to the development of allergies at different stages of life, including adulthood.
How are Allergies Diagnosed?
Diagnosing allergies involves a comprehensive approach that includes obtaining a detailed medical history, conducting a thorough physical examination, and performing various allergy tests. The goal is to identify the specific allergens responsible for a patient's symptoms and determine the most appropriate treatment plan.
Medical History and Physical Examination
The first step in diagnosing allergies is obtaining a thorough medical history. A healthcare professional will ask the patient about their symptoms, the onset and duration of these symptoms, any potential triggers, and any family history of allergies. Dr. Andrew Murphy, a board-certified allergist and immunologist at Penn Medicine, emphasises the importance of a detailed medical history, stating that "a careful history and physical exam are the cornerstone of diagnosing allergies." During the physical examination, the healthcare professional will assess the patient for any visible signs of allergies, such as skin rashes, nasal congestion, or swollen eyes. The doctor may also listen to the patient's breathing to check for any wheezing or other respiratory issues.
Skin Prick Test
A skin prick test is a common diagnostic tool used to identify specific allergens. According to Dr. Jacqueline Eghrari-Sabet, a board-certified allergist and immunologist at Family Allergy & Asthma Care, "skin prick testing is the gold standard for allergy diagnosis because it is quick, accurate, and minimally invasive." During this test, small amounts of various allergens are placed on the patient's skin, usually on the forearm or back. The skin is then gently pricked, allowing the allergen to enter the skin's surface. If the patient is allergic to a particular substance, a raised bump or hive will appear within 15-20 minutes, indicating a positive reaction.
Blood tests, such as the allergen-specific IgE antibody test, can also be used to diagnose allergies. These tests measure the levels of IgE antibodies in the blood that are specific to certain allergens. Dr. Sandra Hong, a board-certified allergist and immunologist at the Cleveland Clinic, explains that "blood tests can be a valuable diagnostic tool when skin testing is not possible, such as in patients with severe eczema or those taking certain medications."
Patch tests are used to diagnose contact dermatitis, a type of skin allergy caused by direct contact with allergens. During a patch test, small amounts of potential allergens are applied to the skin using adhesive patches. The patches are worn for 48 hours, and the skin is then examined for any signs of an allergic reaction. Dr. Susan T. Nedorost, a dermatologist and contact dermatitis expert at Cleveland Clinic, says that "patch testing is crucial for identifying the specific allergens causing contact dermatitis and helping patients avoid these substances."
Oral Food Challenges
Oral food challenges are used to diagnose food allergies. Under medical supervision, the patient consumes small, gradually increasing amounts of the suspected food allergen. The healthcare professional closely monitors the patient for any signs of an allergic reaction.
In some cases, healthcare professionals may recommend an elimination diet to help identify food allergies. During an elimination diet, the patient avoids consuming the suspected food allergen for a specific period, typically two to four weeks. If the patient's symptoms improve during this time, the food may then be reintroduced to see if symptoms reappear. Dr. Robert Wood, a board-certified allergist and immunologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, states that "elimination diets can be a helpful tool for identifying food allergies, particularly when other diagnostic tests are inconclusive or not feasible."
Pulmonary Function Tests
For patients with suspected respiratory allergies, such as asthma, healthcare professionals may perform pulmonary function tests to assess lung function. These tests measure how much air a patient can inhale and exhale, as well as the speed at which air moves in and out of the lungs. Dr. Jonathan Bernstein, a board-certified allergist and immunologist at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, explains that "pulmonary function tests can help diagnose respiratory allergies and assess the severity of a patient's symptoms, allowing for more targeted treatment plans." In conclusion, diagnosing allergies requires a multifaceted approach that combines a detailed medical history, physical examination, and various allergy tests. These diagnostic tools help healthcare professionals identify the specific allergens responsible for a patient's symptoms and develop an appropriate treatment plan. By leveraging expert insights from doctors and medical professionals, a more accurate understanding of allergies and their diagnosis can be achieved.
What Health Tests are Commonly Used to Identify Allergies?
Common health tests used to identify allergies include skin prick tests, blood tests measuring allergen-specific IgE antibodies, patch tests, and oral food challenges.
Why Do Some People Develop Allergies While Others Do Not?
The development of allergies is influenced by a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and immune system factors. Some people may have a genetic predisposition that makes them more susceptible to allergies, while others may not. Additionally, environmental exposures and the individual's immune system response play a role in determining whether someone develops allergies or not. Further research is needed to fully understand the specific mechanisms that contribute to Stanford University School of Medicine, explains that "oral food challenges are considered the most definitive diagnostic test for food allergies, as they directly assess the patient's reaction to the suspected food allergen."
Can Allergies cause Asthma?
Yes, allergies can contribute to the development of asthma. In fact, allergic asthma is the most common type of asthma, affecting up to 60% of individuals with the condition. Allergic asthma occurs when allergens trigger the immune system to produce an exaggerated response, causing inflammation and constriction of the airways. This results in symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing.
What are the Treatments for Allergies?
The treatment of allergies depends on the type and severity of the allergy, as well as the individual's specific needs. Various treatments are available, ranging from medication to lifestyle changes and natural remedies.
Over-the-counter and prescription medications are often used to treat allergy symptoms. These include:
Antihistamines: These drugs block the action of histamine, a chemical released by the immune system during an allergic reaction, thereby reducing symptoms such as itching, sneezing, and runny nose.You can read more about: how do allergy tablets work.
Decongestants: These medications help to reduce nasal congestion by narrowing blood vessels in the nasal passages. Corticosteroids: These anti-inflammatory drugs can be used topically or inhaled to reduce inflammation and swelling in the airways, skin, or nasal passages.
Leukotriene modifiers: These medications block the action of leukotrienes, chemicals involved in the allergic response, and can help reduce asthma symptoms.
Eye drops: Allergy eye drops can also be used to mitigate against the symptoms of an allergy.
Hay fever injections: Hay fever injections work by suppressing the immune system's overreaction to allergens. They can either be steroid injections, which have anti-inflammatory properties, or allergen immunotherapy, which aims to desensitise the immune system to specific allergens over time1.
Natural Remedies for Allergies
Some natural remedies for allergies may help alleviate certain allergy symptoms, although their effectiveness can vary between individuals. These include: Quercetin: A natural antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables, quercetin has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties. Butterbur: An herbal supplement derived from the butterbur plant, it has been found to reduce hay fever symptoms in some studies. Probiotics: These beneficial bacteria have been linked to improved immune function and may help reduce the severity of allergic reactions. Nasal irrigation: Rinsing the nasal passages with a saline solution can help to remove allergens and reduce nasal congestion. Acupuncture: Some research suggests that acupuncture may help to alleviate symptoms of seasonal allergies by modulating the immune system's response to allergens.
Immunotherapy for AllergiesImmunotherapy, also known as allergy shots or desensitisation, involves the administration of gradually increasing doses of the allergen to help the immune system develop tolerance to it. This treatment can be highly effective for certain allergies, such as pollen, dust mites, and insect venom, and may lead to long-lasting relief from symptoms.
Can Allergies be cured?
There is no definitive cure for allergies, but their symptoms can often be managed effectively through appropriate treatment and lifestyle modifications. In some cases, immunotherapy may provide long-term relief, although allergies may still persist for some individuals.
Can Allergies be prevented?
While it is not always possible to prevent allergies, individuals can take steps to reduce their risk of developing allergies or minimise their symptoms. These include: Avoiding known allergens whenever possible. Using air filters and maintaining a clean home environment to reduce exposure to allergens. Practising good personal hygiene, such as washing hands frequently and showering after being outdoors. Breastfeeding infants, as this may help to reduce the risk of developing allergies later in life.
What is the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance?
A food allergy involves an immune system response to a specific food protein, resulting in symptoms such as hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, and, in severe cases, anaphylaxis. Food allergies can be life-threatening and typically require strict avoidance of the allergen.
On the other hand, food intolerance is a non-immune system-related reaction to a specific food or component, such as lactose or gluten. Food intolerance symptoms are generally less severe than food allergies and can include gastrointestinal issues like bloating, gas, and diarrhoea. Unlike food allergies, individuals with food intolerances may be able to consume small amounts of the problematic food without experiencing severe symptoms. Read our article on 7 ways to tell if you have a food intolerance for more clarity.
In summary, allergies can significantly impact an individual's quality of life, but through proper diagnosis and treatment, symptoms can be managed effectively. Various treatments are available, ranging from medications and immunotherapy to natural remedies and lifestyle changes. Understanding the underlying causes, risk factors, and preventative measures can empower individuals to better manage their allergies and improve their overall well-being.
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