HEALTH CONDITIONS

A comprehensive list of today's common ailments and health conditions.

Allergies

By Angela Young

Allergies are a disorder of the immune system. Allergic reactions are a result of hypersensitivity and inflammatory response of the body to the allergens, or more specifically, the excessive activation of mast cells and the antibody IgE. There are mild allergies such as seasonal hay fever and more extreme allergies that are associated with food and external factors such as bee stings and bug bites. Medications are available to treat patients with mild and seasonal allergies. Extreme allergies, such as food allergies, bug bites or stings, require immediate treatment often with a shot of adrenaline from an EpiPen. Most allergies are treatable and people suffering from them are able to live normal lives once their symptoms are under control.

Allergy Symptoms

Allergy symptoms vary from person to person can manifest in many ways. Common symptoms of hay fever include itchy, watery eyes, sneezing and runny nose. Extreme food allergies and other allergies from bee stings and other bug bites manifest with symptoms called anaphylactic shock. Symptoms of anaphylactic shock include respiratory distress, fainting, anxiety, vomiting, and itching. Other allergy symptoms can include hives, rashes, excessively itchy skin and nose, asthma and coughing. Food allergies can also manifest in symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

Allergy Causes

The cause of allergies is either the host or the environment. The host is the person suffering from the allergies. Sex, race and genetics determine the allergies of the host. Environmental causes included exposure to infectious diseases during childhood, diet changes, environmental pollution and allergen levels.

Allergy Diagnosis

Doctors use skin tests, often referred to as the scratch test, and blood tests to diagnose allergies. The preferred method of most physicians for diagnosing allergies is the skin test. Skin tests are more sensitive and therefore often more accurate than blood tests.

Skin tests require small amounts of potential allergens and their extracts be placed on the skin, which is marked with ink to identify which allergen is being tested. A small device then scratches the skin’s surface, slightly puncturing the skin. If the patient is allergic to the allergen the skin will display an inflammatory reaction within 30 minutes.

Blood testing for allergens requires taking blood from the patient to measure the total IgE levels in the patient’s blood plasma. This test is not sensitive enough to accurately determine allergies from inhaled allergens.

Allergy Treatment

Allergy treatments have improved drastically. People suffering with allergies now have many options to choose from. Avoiding allergens is still the best option and absolutely necessary for dangerous and often deadly food allergies. However, allergens that are environmental such allergies associated with dust and pollen are nearly impossible to avoid.

Medications are available when allergens are not avoidable. There are over the counter medications as well as medications which a doctor must prescribe. Common forms of medications include antihistamines, cortisone, hydrocortisone, epinephrine and decongestants. Antihistamines, cortisone and hydrocortisone work by blocking action of the allergic reaction of the cells. Epinephrine treats allergic diseases and anaphylaxis. While decongestants work to alleviate some of the symptoms associated with allergies.

Immunotherapy is another option for allergy treatment. Most people refer to immunotherapy as allergy shots. Immunotherapy works as a vaccination for the patient. The doctor gradually introduces the patient’s specific allergens and increases the size of the dose over time. This treatment can reduce the reaction to allergens overtime or eliminate the reaction all together.


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