Revealing facts about allergic reactions

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Revealing facts about allergic reactions

An allergic reaction should always be taken seriously.  Whether caused by pollen, dust, animal dander, medications, food – each of these can cause an allergic reaction in people who are susceptible.

Depending on the severity, an allergic reaction can range from being mildly uncomfortable and annoying to serious and life-threatening.  Allergic reactions can occur at any age and that is why it is vital to know what to do if you or anyone else you are around has an allergic reaction to a substance.

Here are common questions and facts about allergic reactions and how to deal with them if they occur:

·      What exactly is an allergic reaction?

An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system overreacts to a harmless substance known as an allergen.  The immune system protects the body from infections, viruses, and diseases.  In some people, substances such as pollen, certain foods, latex, mold, pet dander, dust mites or insect stings are allergens that trigger the production of antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE).  These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals, causing symptoms most often in the nose, throat, sinuses, ears, lining of the stomach or on the skin. 

The first time a person with an allergy is exposed to the allergen, it may not cause a reaction.  However, the person is then sensitized to the allergen and even just a minor future exposure to this allergen can produce an allergic reaction. 

·      What happens during an allergic reaction?

Breathing in, eating, or touching something you are allergic to, will make the immune system produce histamines to deal with the substance or allergen.  This response by the immune system can result in the following symptoms:

·      Itching

·      Rash

·      Hives

·      Sneezing and watery eyes

·      Swelling in the mouth or throat

·      Rapid or difficult breathing

·      How should the symptoms of an allergic reaction be treated?

If a person is experiencing itching, redness or a rash they should:

·      Wash the area with mild soap and lukewarm water. 

·      Apply hydrocortisone cream or lotion

·      Calamine lotion and a cool compress may also bring relief

·      If you know what the product is causing the reaction, stop using it

·      If the allergic reaction is to poison ivy, sumac, or oak wash clothing and other items that may have the irritant (urushiol) on them.

·      If the itchiness is severe or the rash is not going away or getting worse, see your doctor 

      If the allergic reaction results in sneezing and watery eyes, you can:

·      Use an over-the-counter antihistamine such as Claritin

     If you break out in hives:

·      Apply cool compresses

·      Avoid hot showers or baths

·      Wear loose clothing and sleep in a cool room

     If the reaction results in throat swelling or difficulty breathing:

·      Call 911 immediately for medical help 

·      Can allergies develop later in life?

As the population is aging, there are more people than ever developing late-onset allergies.  It’s possible that some of those people might have had allergies earlier on but were not diagnosed.  Allergies that pop up later in life are mysterious.  Maybe you could hold cats with no problem as a kid but get too close to one now and your eyes become very watery while you sneeze uncontrollably. 

It is not understood why something you could handle as a child suddenly has turned into an allergen you have to avoid.  The best thing to do is to learn how to manage the allergy symptoms and to use the rules kids with allergies are to follow now as an adult:

·      Avoid the allergens if you can

·      Take allergy medicines

·      Consider allergy shots (immunotherapy)

Also see an allergist for a definitive diagnosis to determine what exactly you may be allergic to.