While considered a mostly mild condition, allergies can also become life-threatening. If you or a loved one is suffering from this condition, chances are that you have plenty of questions that need to be answered.
Read all the most important facts about allergies below to manage your allergies properly.
1.) What causes allergies?
Different substances called allergens cause allergies. Often, these are tiny particles that enter the body through the nose, mouth, or skin. These substances are usually harmless to most people.
Some of the common airborne allergens are:
- Pollen– This is a common cause of allergy that appears and is most abundant during the summer season.
- Pet dander – Contrary to popular belief that pet allergies are caused by fur, these are actually caused by particles of proteins called ‘dander’. This can be found in animal skin and is shed into their air. These proteins may also come from an animal’s feces, urine, saliva, or feathers.
- Mold spores –Molds are microscopic fungi that produce spores. When they become airborne, they can enter the human body when people breathe. Most indoor molds grow in damp areas, including bathrooms, basements, or rooms with leaks or that have been flooded. Outdoors, molds can be found in leaf piles, grass, mulch, and even around mushrooms.
- Dust mites – These microscopic organisms live in dust particles and can even stay within the fibers of rugs, pillows, mattresses, and upholstered furniture. These are prevalent in warm and humid places.
Other allergens include insect stings (e.g., bee venom), certain types of food (e.g., peanuts, wheat, soy, fish, eggs, milk, etc.), drugs (e.g., penicillin and penicillin-based antibiotics), and some chemicals used on things that you touch (e.g., latex).
When an allergic reaction occurs, the immune system produces an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE) to respond to the allergen that enters the body.
While all people have this type of antibody, those with allergies often have more than what is needed.
When the IgE antibodies deal with allergens, they tend to cause white blood cells – or mast cells – to produce a chemical called histamine.
Histamine then triggers symptoms of the allergic reaction that may include mucus production, swelling, rash, itching, hives, and others. Symptoms differ depending on the location and type of allergy.
2.) How can I differentiate allergies from common colds?
Common colds and allergy symptoms tend to be quite similar. To answer the question, below are some tips on how you can determine what you or a loved one is suffering from:
Watch out for patterns and timing
Both allergies and common colds have similar symptoms such as congestion, runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, headaches, and fatigue.
However, the difference lies in the pattern of occurrence. While cold symptoms appear one at a time (i.e., sneezing before a runny nose, followed by congestion), symptoms for allergies occur all at once.
Aside from that, the period and timing at which the symptoms appear to vary between these two conditions.
For one thing, common colds disappear between seven to ten days. Meanwhile, symptoms of an allergic reaction continuously occur so long as the patient is exposed to the allergen that triggered it.
Also, colds often occur during the cold winter months while allergies tend to strike when plants are pollinating in the summer till fall.
Monitor the color of mucus
The mucus can also serve as an indicator of what condition you or your loved one is suffering from. For colds, you may find yellowish nasal discharge due to the infection. If it’s allergies, the mucus often looks clear, watery and thin.
Check for fever
A person with common colds may also experience fever, but those with allergies don’t.
3.) How do I know for sure that it is allergies?
Diagnosing allergies can be done with the help of a medical professional. Your doctor may check the rashes that appear on your skin or ask you to have a blood test.
Listing down the symptoms will also help. It is also a good idea to let your physician know of any medical history that may increase the risk of allergies.
In the case of food allergies, dietary changes may be done to remove suspected allergens systematically. Certain laboratory tests can also be performed to pinpoint the cause of food allergies.
4.) How does knowing the pollen count help my allergies?
Pollen is a common allergen that triggers sneezing and other signs of an allergic reaction. This is the main reason why most people with allergies experience worse symptoms during the pollen season.
Knowing the pollen count will help a person with allergies discern whether to take extra precautions when going outside. Remember that avoiding allergens that trigger an allergic reaction is the single best way to prevent its onset.
5.) Are allergies dangerous?
Most of the time, allergy symptoms only come in mild and moderate severity. However, hyperallergic people may experience a reaction that can be life-threatening – anaphylaxis.
This symptom involves the entire body, causing extreme swelling of the airways and the lungs. This can cause swallowing or breathing to become difficult. It can also cause cramps, vomiting, severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, and even dizziness. Because of its severity, anaphylaxis requires emergency medical treatment.
6.) Is there an allergy cure?
There isn’t a cure for allergies, but you may find ways to control the symptoms that come with it. You can manage your allergy symptoms with medication, but you could still experience a reaction when you encounter allergens.
Interestingly, children sometimes outgrow their allergies, especially those triggered by food.
There is also a treatment known as immunotherapy, which entails getting controlled doses of the allergen given through intravenous shots, drops, or oral tablets.
While this isn’t a cure, it can help weaken the reaction by allowing the body to build a resistance to the allergen gradually.
Knowledge is the cure
Suffering from a medical condition such as allergies can cause complications in the sufferer’s life.
To make sure this doesn’t cause a major disruption in yours, you must gather as much information about allergies as you can.
This way, you can find ways to make the symptoms manageable or even prevent allergy attacks from occurring by avoiding the triggers.6 Questions You Might Be Asking About Allergies – Causes, Diagnosis, and More