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Managing Allergies

Conditions that are caused by hypersensitive immune systems are common in the developed world with about 6% of people having at least one food allergy and about 20% of people affected by allergic rhinitis. Allergic reactions are reactions to substances which are completely harmless to most people. Allergic reactions range from mild to serious, sometimes resulting in life-threatening situations with diseases caused by allergic reactions ranging from hay fever, atopic dermatitis, allergic asthma, to anaphylaxis. 

Common allergens are pollen and food. Metal, dust, mold medication, latex, certain species of plants, insect stings and other substances also cause allergic reactions in some people.

Allergy Symptoms

Allergic reactions usually manifest as hypersensitivity symptoms in the lungs, throat, sinuses, nose, ears, skin, and the lining of the stomach. In some individuals, allergies can trigger symptoms of asthma. In very serious cases, allergic reactions can trigger anaphylaxis which is a severe, life threatening condition that can cause one or more of more than one of the following: an itchy rash, throat or tongue swelling, shortness of breath, vomiting, light-headedness, and low blood pressure. 

Managing allergic reactions & Prevention measures.

Avoid foods that cause allergic reactions if you have food allergies. Alter your diet to exclude substances that your body reacts to. Carefully read food packages and labels to ensure that you do not unwittingly eat things that trigger allergic reactions.

Immunotherapy. The most popular form of immunotherapy are allergy shots are a form of treatment for allergic reactions which involves injections containing small amounts of allergens – substances which trigger specific allergic reactions.  The aim of allergy shots is to reduce the sensitivity of the immune system to the allergen over time and hence, the allergic reactions become less severe. A multi-year course of subcutaneous desensitization has been found to be effective against stinging insects, while oral desensitization is effective for many foods. 

Control exposure to outdoor allergens. It is advisable to limit the time you spend in places that contain substances you are allergic to, or avoid them entirely if possible. This includes fields that are likely to have pollen floating about at the slightest disturbance, and woods that contain insects whose sting you react to. 

Control exposure to indoor allergens. Use an air conditioner or air purifier with a HEPA filter to regulate the purity of the air you breathe inside your house and to keep out dust and other particles.  Avoid carpet, furniture, and bed covers that collect dust. 

Rugs and wall-to-wall carpeting are probably not your friends and should be removed. Vacuum your walls, floors, ceilings, and closets regularly to minimise the amount of dust that would be in your home at any point in time. Contact a pest control service, if necessary, to get rid of cockroaches. Dead insects may trigger allergic reactions, especially allergic asthma. 

Dealing with an allergic reaction.

It is crucial to understand the effectiveness of fast response. It is important to recognize that you are having an allergic reaction and respond appropriately.  It is important to go to a hospital as soon as possible, if your symptoms have reduced because of the possibility of them returning.

Anaphylaxis is one of the most severe allergic reactions and can lead to death. The primary treatment of anaphylaxis is intra-muscular epinephrine injections, intravenous fluids, and positioning the person flat with feet preferably raised about 12 inches higher than the body. Additional doses of epinephrine may be required. 

Other measures, such as antihistamines and steroids, may be needed. Carrying an epinephrine autoinjector and a wrist tag, neck tag, and other forms of identification regarding the condition is recommended in people with a history of anaphylaxis.

“There is currently no cure for allergies. However if appropriate steps are taken, your allergy can be managed effectively” – Jane Farrel; Health Professional at Supplements in Review.

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