What to do with bad allergies
Substances that cause allergic reactions are called allergens.
The more common allergens include:
- grass and tree pollen – an allergy to these is known as hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
- dust mites
- animal dander, tiny flakes of skin or hair
- insect bites and stings
- food – particularly nuts, fruit, shellfish, eggs and cows’ milk
- latex – used to make some gloves and condoms
- medicines – including ibuprofen, aspirin and certain antibiotics
- mould – these can release little particles into the air that you can breathe in
- household chemicals – including those in detergents and hair dyes
Most of these allergens are generally harmless to people who are not allergic to them.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction
Allergic reactions generally happen quickly within a few minutes of exposure to an allergen.
They can cause:
- a runny or blocked nose
- red, itchy, watery eyes
- wheezing and coughing
- a red, itchy rash
- worsening of asthma or eczema symptoms
Most allergic reactions are mild, but occasionally a severe reaction called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock can happen.
This is a medical emergency and needs urgent treatment.
Getting assist for allergies
See a GP if you ponder you or your kid might own had an allergic reaction to something.
The symptoms of an allergic reaction can also be caused by other conditions.
A GP can assist determine whether it’s likely you own an allergy.
If they ponder you might own a mild allergy, they can offer advice and treatment to assist manage the condition.
If your allergy is particularly severe or it’s not clear what you’re allergic to, they may refer you to an allergy specialist for testing and advice about treatment.
Find out more about allergy testing
What causes allergies?
Allergies occur when the body’s immune system reacts to a specific substance as though it’s harmful.
It’s not clear why this happens, but most people affected own a family history of allergies or own closely related conditions, such as asthma or eczema.
The number of people with allergies is increasing every year.
The reasons for this are not understood, but 1 of the main theories is it’s the result of living in a cleaner, germ-free environment, which reduces the number of germs our immune system has to deal with.
It’s thought this may cause it to overreact when it comes into contact with harmless substances.
How to manage an allergy
In many cases, the most effective way of managing an allergy is to avoid the allergen that causes the reaction whenever possible.
For example, if you own a food allergy, you should check a food’s ingredients list for allergens before eating it.
There are also several medicines available to help control symptoms of allergic reactions, including:
- antihistamines – these can be taken when you notice the symptoms of a reaction, or before being exposed to an allergen, to stop a reaction occurring
- decongestants – tablets, capsules, nasal sprays or liquids that can be used as a short-term treatment for a blocked nose
- lotions and creams, such as moisturising creams (emollients) – these can reduce skin redness and itchiness
- steroid medicines – sprays, drops, creams, inhalers and tablets that can assist reduce redness and swelling caused by an allergic reaction
For some people with extremely severe allergies, a treatment called immunotherapy may be recommended.
This involves being exposed to the allergen in a controlled way over a number of years so your body gets used to it and does not react to it so severely.
Is it an allergy, sensitivity or intolerance?
A reaction produced by the body’s immune system when exposed to a normally harmless substance.
The exaggeration of the normal effects of a substance.
For example, the caffeine in a cup of coffee may cause extreme symptoms, such as palpitations and trembling.
Where a substance causes unpleasant symptoms, such as diarrhoea, but does not involve the immune system.
People with an intolerance to certain foods can typically eat a little quantity without having any problems.
Sheet final reviewed: 22 November
Next review due: 22 November
When one tree loves another tree extremely much, it releases pollen to fertilize the ovules of that tree, plus whatever other trees happen to be around (you know how it goes).
But when the pollen begins to blow, you’re probably not marveling at the miracle of tree reproduction—you’re dreading the allergies that accompany it.
The reason that pollen makes some people sniffle and sneeze is because their immune systems attack it love a parasite, says Leonard Bielory, professor and allergy specialist at Rutgers University Middle of Environmental Prediction.
That’s because certain people’s immune systems recognize the protein sequence in pollen as similar to the protein sequence in parasites.
When this happens, their bodies attempt to expel the “parasite” through sneezing and other symptoms.
This attack on the pollen, Bielory says, “is the reaction we call allergy.”
The fact that some people’s bodies react this way is actually helpful of weird, since pollen “is rather innocuous,” he says. Our immune system “really should not be reacting to it, because pollen is nothing more than the male reproductive component of plants.”