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Allergies

Allergies

The incidence of allergy is on the rise, with childhood allergies more than doubling in the last ten years.  Allergies range from the sneezing associated with hay fever to anaphylactic shock resulting from a severe nut allergy.  Early detection along with prevention and appropriate treatment is key to successfully living with an allergy.

Various Types of Allergies

The type of allergy depends upon where the allergen has contacted the body and the type of allergen.  Allergies are often mixed in nature - more than one type of allergy is present. As well, one type may exacerbate another.

  • Hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis is the result of breathing in airborne pollen. The time of year helps identify the plant - tree pollen in spring; grass pollen in summer; weed pollen such as ragweed in autumn.  
  • Allergic conjunctivitis is inflammation or redness of the eye due to airborne substances such as fungal spores, dust, and pollen. 
  • Allergic pulmonary disease can impact asthma due to inhaled allergens.  Childhood asthma more often has an allergy component than does asthma that begins after age 30. 
  • Food allergies occur after ingestion of a specific food, for example, nuts, fish, and milk.  Gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea can be present, however, it is the breathing problems which result from swelling of the throat that are of most concern. 
  • Contact dermatitis is caused by an allergen, for example poison ivy or latex, which comes into contact with the skin.  Redness, rash, itchiness, and blisters can occur.  Cosmetics including deodorants, skin creams, and nail polish, are often offenders. 
  • Eczema or atopic dermatitis is chronic inflammation of the skin usually thought to involve an allergy; however the offending allergen cannot usually be identified. 
  • Hives or urticaria are raised, red lesions or “bumps” which can be very itchy.  They can occur with exposure to either an internal or external allergen, and sometimes are related to stress.  
  • Bee, wasp stings and mosquito bites are allergic reactions to the foreign proteins in bee or wasp venom and the substances excreted by mosquitoes when they feed. 
  • Household dust mites feed on dead skin cells and can be found throughout the house, especially in mattresses.  It is the inhaled dust mite feces that produce allergies. 
  • Allergies to animals can either be the result of contact with an animal or its dander.  
  • The most common drug allergies are those to penicillins, sulfa drugs, and drugs such as ibuprofen.  The symptoms can range from skin rashes to the more severe facial swelling.

In theory, avoiding allergies is as simple as avoiding the allergen that causes your allergy.  However, you may not know what is causing your allergy and if you do know, it may be not be possible or easy to avoid the allergy.  Once you know what is causing your allergy, a change in diet, occupation, or residence may be needed to avoid the allergen.