Life is not easy for people with allergies. Even a tiny thing can give them too much trouble. Dusts, animal dander and pollen may seem harmless. However, for them, exposure to these things can lead to allergic reactions. So, why does human body respond in such a way? Why do you experience flu-like symptoms when you are exposed to allergens?
Why Do We Have Allergies?
Today, there is still no definite explanation as to why allergies happen. However, it is commonly believed that they are the result of the overreaction of the immune system. Typically, when the body detects an unfamiliar substance (allergen), it immediately responds by blocking these invaders. As a response, the body produces immunoglobulin E (IgE), an antibody that attaches to mast cells. From there, a number of substances are also released, including histamine, a chemical that causes allergy symptoms.
Genetics plays a vital role in determining your chances of developing allergies. For example, a child who has a parent with allergies has a 33% possibility of developing an allergy. The possibility rises to 70% when both parents have allergies.
The most common substances (allergens) that trigger allergies are:
- Bee stings
- Animal dander
- Dust mites
- Insect bites
- Pollens and plants
- Some medications – penicillin
- Foods – particularly fish, shellfish, wheat, soy, milk, eggs, and peanuts
Why do we have allergies and varying symptoms? As you know, the body responds to its invaders in varying ways. Depending on your trigger, allergic reactions can either be mild, moderate or severe.
Symptoms of Mild Allergy
A mild allergic reaction is localized or it does not affect other parts of your body. Symptoms are:
- Itching (localized)
Symptoms of Moderate Allergy
A moderate allergic reaction may affect other parts of your body. Symptoms are:
- Difficulty breathing
- Widespread itching
Symptoms of Anaphylaxis or Severe Allergy
Although anaphylaxis is rare, it is considered a life-threatening emergency. The body’s response to allergens is sudden and it can affect the entire body. Within minutes, the symptoms may progress to more serious conditions, including:
- Itching (face or eyes)
- Inflammation of the tongue, throat and mouth – swallowing and breathing can be difficult.
- Abdominal pain
When Should You Seek Medical Attention?
You have to see your doctor if you think that you have symptoms associated with allergies, especially if you notice that a specific substance is causing your symptoms. If you experience symptoms after taking a new drug, you have to immediately see the doctor who prescribed it.
For anaphylaxis, it is strongly advised to call your local emergency helpline for immediate help. If you are carrying an EpiPen or other kinds of epinephrine injectors, you have to inject it immediately.
Before giving you any treatment, your doctor has to first answer the question, "Why do we have allergies?" Then, he/she will give you appropriate treatment that will help you cope with your allergies.
- Avoiding Allergens. Generally, this is the most important move you can take to prevent and reduce allergy symptoms. Your doctor may assist in identifying your allergens. He/she can also offer some precautionary measures you can take to avoid allergens.
- Medications. There are various medications available that can help lessen allergic reactions and ease your symptoms. Your doctor can recommend over-the-counter drugs or prescription drugs.
- Immunotherapy. In certain situations, your doctor may suggest allergen immunotherapy. This is typically recommended in cases of severe allergic reactions or when a patient is not feeling any relief from other treatments. In this treatment, injections containing extracts of purified allergen are periodically given. Drug administration can last for years. Aside from injections, immunotherapy can also be administered in the form of a sublingual tablet. It is placed underneath your tongue. It is typically prescribed for patients with pollen allergies.
- Emergency Epinephrine Injection (EpiPen). Epinephrine injections such as EpiPen are normally given to patients with severe allergies. This should always be carried wherever you go since it can reduce severe symptoms until emergency treatment is given.
How to Prevent Allergies
Why do we have allergies and how can we prevent them? Allergies occur because allergens are invading your body. Thus, in order to prevent allergic reactions, it is important to find ways to avoid allergens.
- Let Go of Your Carpets
Carpets are known to be the favorite haven of dust mites. If they are placed over concrete flooring, evaporation is interfered. Molds eventually grow in your carpeting. Molds and dust mites can trigger allergies. Thus, it best to use rugs or bare flooring instead.
- Do Not Sleep with Your Pets
Dogs and cats are lovable creatures. However, the proteins found in an animal’s dander, saliva and urine can cause undesirable effects. So, if you or your child is allergic to animals, you might want to weigh the pros and cons of getting a pet.
- Use an Air Conditioner
Allergic reactions are triggered by the presence of pollen in the air. One way to avoid pollen is through the use of an air conditioner. It can also be beneficial for people with allergies since it lowers humidity. However, make sure that its filter is always clean.
- Keep Your Bathrooms Clean
Mildew or the green stuff in your bathroom can produce spores that can cause allergic reactions. Thus, it is important to always keep your bathrooms clean.
- Reschedule Your Morning Exercise
From 5 A.M. to 10 A.M., the pollen count is very high. If you are a morning jogger and you have pollen allergies, you can reschedule your workout to the afternoon.
- Opt for Vinyl and Leather Furniture
Why do we have allergies? One reason is if you are using upholstered furniture. Allergens such as dust, dust mites and animal dander can get stuck in the fibers of upholstered furniture. So, you should opt for vinyl and leather furniture instead. Additionally, these kinds of furniture can be easily cleaned.
- Always Wash Stuff Toys
Your child’s stuff teddy may seem harmless. However, millions of dust mites are living in these toys. It is advisable to wash these toys in hot water every week.
- Newly Bought Products Should Be Exposed to Air
Newly bought products can release volatile organic compounds (VOCS) that can trigger allergic reactions. Though these fumes fade over time, it is best to air them out first in a well-ventilated area before setting these products in your home.