You may not be aware that you have an allergy. Unless the symptoms come on only in specific situations say, when you visit a friend who owns a cat 7 you may not realise that the sniflles you seem to always have or the cold that lasted all winter were actually allergy symptoms.
Allergy symptoms come in many forms, but all occur for the same reason. When you come into contact with an allergen (an allergy-prompting substance). your immune system produces antibodies to fight off what it mistakenly sees as a harmful invader. This can trigger symptoms in many different parts of your body, depending on where the reaction occurs. Here are some of the most common types:
Reactions in the Nose, Throat, and Eyes:
When you inhale an airborne allergen like pollen, mould, dust or dander from household pets through your mouth or nose, you may develop allergic rhinitis, an allergic reaction centring on the nose. If the reaction is seasonal and caused by plant pollens or moulds, some people call it “hay fever.” Sometimes allergic rhinitis can be triggered by eating food.
1. Sneezing, runny or clogged nose.
2. Congestion and excess mucus.
3. Coughing and postnasal drip.
4. Watery, itchy eyes or conjunctivitis (an inflammation of the membrane that lines the eyelids, causing red-rimmed swollen eyes and crusting on the eyelids).
5. Scratchiness or burning in the throat or the roof of the mouth.
6. Itchy ears.
7. Allergic “shiners”, dark circles under the eyes caused by increased blood flow near the sinuses.
Allergies can produce several skin conditions. The most frequent causes of these rashes are pollen, medications, foods and animals. Certain symptoms, like hives, can be triggered by emotional stress. Skin reactions may develop within minutes of exposure, or they may take hours or even days. The most common rashes are as follows:
This is an itchy rash that breaks out in an area where a chemical or other allergen has touched your skin. For example, many people react to poisonivy, others are sensitive to cleaning fluids or detergents. When the skin comes in contact with the allergic substance, the reaction is often not immediate, it usually starts after one to three days. The rash often lasts a week or longer. The skin becomes red, itchy and inflamed, often with blisters.
These are itchy welts that may appear on any part of your body. Hives start minutes to hours after an exposure and may last a day or two. They can occur without an allergen touching your skin. For example, you may develop hives after eating certain foods or taking certain medicines.
Eczema (atopic dermatitis):
This rash consists of patches of red, itchy, crusty or scaly skin, often on the elbows, knees and in skin folds. It is not always related to allergies. It can also be related to asthma.
Although many people say they are allergic to certain foods, experts believe that
true food allergies affect a relatively small number of people. They estimate that only 2 per cent of adults and from 2 to 8 per cent of children, are truly allergic to specific foods.
The more common problem is food intolerance.
The difference between an allergy and an intolerance lies in the way your body handles the food in question. A true food allergy occurs when your body’s immune system sees something in the food usually a protein as foreign and produces antibodies to fight it. Food allergies can produce a wide range of symptoms in many parts of the body some of the most likely spots are:
1. In the gastrointestinal tract: swelling of the lips, vomiting, abdominal pain or cramps and Diarrhoea.
2. On the skin: hives, rashes or eczema.
3. In the respiratory system: sneezing, runny nose, asthma, or difficulty breathing.
4. Almost any food can cause allergy, but eggs, milk, nuts, soya, fish, corn and wheat are the most common triggers. If you are allergic to a particular food, you might also be allergic to related foods. For example, if you’re allergic to peanuts, you may also have trouble with other members of the legume family, like peas and beans.
With food intolerance, the problem is not your immune system, rather, your body has a problem digesting some portion of the food involved. For example, people who produce low levels of an intestinal enzyme called lactase, which helps break down the sugar in milk may have trouble digesting milk. This condition, called lactose intolerance, can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, but it is not the same as a milk allergy.
Unlike allergies, which sometimes get better or go away as people get older, food intolerance usually get worse as you age. However, someone with an intolerance may be able to handle certain amounts of the problem food without getting symptoms. People with true food allergies must take care to avoid the offending food altogether or they may trigger a life threatening allergic reaction called anaphylayis. Anaphylactic reactions to food probably cause as many as 50 deaths a year in the United States.
Serious and life-threatening symptoms:
Two kinds of allergic reactions are particularly worrisome because they can be life threatening.
This is a rare reaction that affects many parts of the body at once. Typical triggers include insect stings, a food (such as nuts or shellfish or medications. Symptoms may include a dangerous drop in blood pressure, flushing, hives, difficulty in breathing, swelling of the throat, tongue and nose, and loss of consciousness. Usually the symptoms start quickly and get worse fast. At the first sign of an anaphylactic reaction, you must get emergency medical attention. Anaphylax can kill you if it is not treated immediately.
In this condition, your lungs overreact to every day stimuli like allergens, exercise, or cold air. During an asthma attack, muscle spasms in the airways strangle the flow of air to the lungs. The linings of the airways swell and fill with mucus. Symptoms include shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, a tight feeling in the chest, coughing and wheezing. An asthma episode can develop quickly It may be only mildly uncomfortable, or it may prevent breathing altogether. If you develop wheezing and shortness of breath with your allergy symptoms, you should ask your health care provider about asthma.