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An allergy is an unusual reaction to normally harmless substances (allergens) that contact the body surfaces. These surfaces include the eyes, nose, lungs, stomach, and skin. Allergy specifically refers to an immunologic interaction between an allergen and an antibody. One of the most prevalent chronic conditions experienced by Americans is allergy.


Allergy is caused by allergen, a foreign substance that gives rise to an allergic reaction by starting an immune response. Fever due to the presence of pollen in the air, appearance of nappy rash in babies, skin rashes in adults as a result of touching some substances like certain leaves, synthetic clothes etc, stomach cramps after eating particular foods are all caused by allergic reactions to various substances.


Allergy sometimes leads to mild disorder or uneasiness in the body such as itching, sneezing, swelling or fever simply by contact with certain pollen or insect bite or eating or breathing dust. A rare and severe allergic reaction can trigger anaphylactic shock that occasionally leads to death. Stings from certain insects like ants, bees, spiders etc can sometimes lead to this fatal situation.


Certain common allergens are-

Cockroaches
Dust mites
House dust
Spiders
Mold
Pets
Fungal spores
Pollen
Red ants

Researchers claim that the laws of genetics exhibit that allergies are hereditary ie, they can be inherited from the forefathers and are thus handed down to the next generation. The dominant and the recessive factors in the genes play a great role in this respect. The allergens that do not express themselves in this generation remain dormant or recessive and may become dominant in the next generation. A person with one parent who suffers allergies has a mild chance of developing allergies. When both parents are allergic, the likelihood increases.



Symptoms :

The symptoms of allergy and cold are very much similar and it is advisable to diagnose it correctly. Cold symptoms take some time to surface while allergic reactions have almost immediate effect whose duration depends on the duration of exposure to the allergen. They are mostly unpleasant and sometimes unbearable attacking the hosts mainly twice a year- the spring and the fall. Some common symptoms include -

* sneezing
* stuffed or runny nose
* clear nasal discharge
* general itchiness
* diarrhea
* puffed, itchy or watery eyes (with overabundance of tears)
* hives or rash
* itchiness in mouth and throat
* cough
* itching (roof of mouth or nose)
* sinus pain
* nausea and vomiting
* earaches
* hay fever ( allergic rhinitis),

Certain physiological changes include discomfort in the body or hampering of sense and sensitivity by impairing of smell, taste or hearing due to hay fever. The nasal conjestion prevents the receptor cells in the mucous membranes of the nasal cavity to receive any odor and transmit it to the brain. Thus it becomes difficult for the affected person to detect any smell. As this is related to the taste, the food seems tasteless as well.
Food allergies may lead to swelling of the mouth, throat and bronchial tubes and arrest breathing leading to gasping for air. This may be a serious condition and consulting the doctor immediately is recommended.

Beware of the food allergens-

* peanut
* soy
* fish
* yeast
* sea food
* mint
* egg
* certain citrus fruits
* eggplant
* milk or any dairy product
* peppers
* berries
* grains (corn, wheat, rye, bajra)

Food allergies may sometimes be life-threatening. So treat the reactions without wasting time. For sensitive people this may lead to severe nausea, breating troubles or even fainting and death.

The allergens present in the air as dust, pollen, mold, perfumes, mites, animal dander etc may not lead to very severe situations like death but when they are inhaled or contacted with body surface, runny nose and eyes, asthma, itchy skin, stuffed nose etc are inevitable. The burst of symptoms is maximum during the early hours when the pollen discharge from the flowers is at it's peak. Those staying at home are mostly affected by the house dust, mites and molds present inside the house. Fungal spores gliding in the air in the garden and the vicinity of the house can affect the immune system making the person more vulnerable to allergens.


In addition to allergies resulting due to contact with allergens or food intake, the skin may trigger off certain reactions when exposed to sun or cold. The reactions exhibit themselves as red patches, raised or low, itchy or weeping, small and bumpy, blistering or otherwise. Scientificaly they have been termed variously as rashes, urticaria or hives, dermatitis or eczema etc. However some severe conditions may result due to contact with some plants having stinging hairs or poisonous secretions (poison ivy), chemicals in the laundry and household detergents, hair dyes, daily use perfumes and deodorants, body lotions and shaving gels, fashion jewelry, brooch or clips, leather in bags or shoes and rubber gloves. The skins of all ages are vulnerable to such infections. Since prevention is better than cure, it is advisable to keep away from these allergens as far as possible. Undergo extreme precautions in unavoidable cases where you have to use the detergents and soaps or go through dangerous plants or wear the jewelry. Medicinal ointments, moisturizers, antihistamines and antibiotic creams are available in the market for your safety. You may never become immune to the allergens but the appearance of the patches can be somewhat prevented or minimised.


Insect stings are another source of allergic reactions in humans. They are the biters such as ants, mosquitoes, flies, fleas, lice etc and others such as hairy caterpillars, bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets etc. They trigger off pain, swelling, redness and itching at the site of sting due to some toxic chemical deposition from their body. Illness, such as fever or drowsiness, cramp or headache may occur due to multiple stings. In severe cases, the chemical injected into the human body from the insects may lead to unconsciousness in babies and children or even death. Sometimes these stings lead to a systemic reaction when there may be difficulty in swallowing, labored breathing, hoarseness, thickened speech, weakness, confusion, and feelings of impending disaster. The insect bites or stings are very dangerous sometimes even blocking the air intake and can pose fatal if not treated early.





Treatment :


Be aware of the risks. Of course prevention is easy and economical.

It is best to learn about the substances that provoke allergies and avoid them. It may be pollen from certain flowers during a particular season, cigerettes, some food like eggplant, shrimp, dairy, eggs etc, shaving creams, tanning products or dust and pollution in the air. Often the fragrance and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives in the cosmetics we use daily are the culprits. Try to eliminate the causal elements and then get on some good real natural unaltered vitamins. This will not only help you but give you a long term relief. Self-test the soaps and shampoos on the inner side of the arm (after diluting them with water and leaving them for long hours) before trying them out on sensitive areas. Burning or itchy sensation may occur if you are allergic to the products. Go for a refund if necessary.

Some people may be allergic to synthetic clothes like terry cloth or cashmere. Using cotton for clothing and bedding purposes would be the best for them.

However certain situations like dust , pollen or air pollution are unavoidable and to consult a physician will be wise in this respect if the allergic reactions are severe. It is possible to induce tolerance to the offending allergens through medication, both herbal and synthetic.

Although allergic diseases may improve spontaneously, during childhood and adolescence, the symptoms remain dormant and tend to recur after some time. So the sufferers cannot outgrow the disease.

An efficient doctor is the best person who can provide you with the perfect treatment. If you are not confident about or comfortable enough with one physician, consult another. Do not suffer in silence. It may be fatal. Moreover, children need a different kind of treatment altogether and for them go to a pediatric allergist and not a general physician. The latter person may not recognise the ailments and thus there will be no end to the sufferings.

Blood tests, scratch tests, skin tests, diet restrictions are a normal course to diagnosis of the specific allergen.




Be Your Own Doctor

There are bottled syrups and packeted capsules for allergy treatment and these are all for those who suffer from allergies. But will it not be a happier situation if we tried and controlled allergy all by ourselves? I mean, to some extent we can reduce the suffering and money loss. Will it not be good if we were a little bit more cautious and alert? So, if you want to save those times spent waiting in the doctor's chamber, peek down below. Otherwise ........... ...........!


Keep your house neat and clean


We spend a whale share of the day inside the house. So the quality of air we breathe has a significant bearing on our health. It should thus be kept clean and free of all the offensive allergens and pollutants like virus, bacteria, molds, mildew, pollen, offensive odor, endotoxins, pet dander, insect excretions, volatile organic compounds and lots of other micro-organisms.

Installing a simple and inexpensive electrostatic filtration device keeps the contaminated air trapped in your home clean of microscopic particles such as pollen grains, pet dander, roach and dust mite feces and dust particles by forcing air through a filter with the help of a blower thus reducing allergens in your home. Clean it periodically and professionally and you'll save some trips to the doctor and some wretchedness during several months in the year. If you have forced air vents, put cheesecloth or air conditioner filter in each one. Keeps dirt from the vents and air system from entering the house.
High efficiency particulate air filters with a greater surface area are known to be the most effective of the mechanical filters with about 99% efficiency in removing even the smallest infective airborne particles from your home.
Electronic air cleaners are very portable and easy to install. The various types found in the stores function differently on different mechanisms having varied operating protocols but with the same aim- generate an electrical field to attract and trap charged particles. However, it is important to remember that electrical-attraction-type devices may release ozone gas as a by-product of their operation. Ozone can be toxic and lead to other health hazards.
Another mechanism is the hybrid filter that is something midway between the mechanical filter and the electronic filter.
Pollen masks are adept in checking pollen intrusion in your nasal cavity while you work in a pollen infested yard or vaccuum a dusty place. Use litter and carpet fresheners periodically to get rid of the nasty odors let out by the chemical residues of your pets and live a better life. Those who suffer from allergic reactions, mildew & musty odors resulting in headaches, dizziness, nausea, sinusitis, etc it is best recommended that they use a mildew-resistant coating on all the exposed surfaces. They remove the disagreeable smell making breathing delightning. Dust mite eliminators are now in the market to aid you out of your mourning.

Various allergy control solutions are now available in the market that can neutralize dust mite and their faeces. It is recommended that susceptible people use vaccuum filters that will prevent dust or dirt back out of vaccuum. Allergen sprays on floors, upholstery, carpet and furniture can effectively denature allergens and give you a clean, fresh feeling. Costly, but extremely helpful in the long run.


Your bedding is the host of thousands of invisible dust mites. They thrive well in the warm breeding ground of your bed living off dead skin cells. Their chemical waste can be toxic thus producing allergic reaction. Wash you bedding in hot water twice a month and make them unwelcome in your bed.

Clean up as soon as you are inside after your outdoor activities. Change clothes, have a shower and get rid of any pollen that might be sticking to your body and hair. Rinse your eyes with saline drops if necessary. If you had been accompanied by your pet outside, then wash him with a moist towel and remove the slightest possibility of presence of any pollen inside your clean home.

Keeping your surrounding air clean, healthy and free of unwanted airborne particles may be a very effective method of preventing allergy. Step forward towards making your home a safer place to live in.




Think before you eat

Certain foods trigger off adverse reactions in the body and are best to avoid. You may have a craving for that food but after some time it may lead to a series of adverse reactions. Special treatment can be available in serious situations like anaphylaxis or asthma but it is best to avoid the particular food. Such food include milk, peanut, corn, wheat, egg, tomatoes, preservatives, food color, eggplant, fish, food additives, citrus fruits etc.

Milk -

While milk is considered to be the balanced diet for some, it is allergic to some due to the presence of the various proteins like casein, lactalbumin, lactoglobulins etc leading to eczema, rash, mucous buildup, wheezing, asthma, rhinitis, pneumonia and anaphylaxis. The symptoms are varied and may delay in surfacing. Eliminate milk and all other dairy products from your diet if you suspect anything and consult your physician. You may be either allergic or intolerant to lactose present in the milk. Intolerance can allow you to include milk and other dairy products which are low in lactase in your diet but allergy means a complete avoidance is necessary. There is absolutely no cure. So, get your symptoms properly diagnosed before you come to any conclusion. However, avoiding dairy products mean you need to consume other dietary calcium supplements to prevent osteoporosis in a later age.


Wheat -

Gluten present in some grains like wheat, oat, barley can be allergic to some and lead to digestive problems in the adults and irritability, loss of concentration, alertness and memory, crankiness etc in children and adolescents. Runny nose, itchiness and red eyes are mild symptoms while all the others may be severe both to the adult and the child. Intense burning sensation in the skin with an outbreak of stinging rashes or blistering lesions is a very severe condition. Staying away from gluten or wheat related diet like avoiding bread, cakes etc made up of wheat rather than depending on medications may be the best way to keep the allergic reactions at bay. Not only grains but various creams, moisturisers, lip glosses, shampoos also contain gluten. Gluten also acts as the binding and bulking agent in processed foods providing the starching, stabilizing, filling and shaping functions. So beware of those canned delicacies! Center your diet around rice or millet and prepare cakes, breads and cookies with those non-wheat rice or potato-starch flours. They cannot be as soft and tasteful as those made from wheat but can be embraced and relied upon.


Corn-

Although corn may be a very popular food item among the Americans and is a good source of nutrition, it is a potential allergen for some people leading to rashes and itchy skin. It has been used in many foods as thickeners or are bases in cosmetics. Corn flour is used for baking needs and corn sugar can be found in the bottled drinks. Glue in stamps, certain spices, all contain corn. It is best to consult a doctor who can provide with some corn-free nutritional diets for susceptible people.




Maintain a healthy garden


Planting a seed, watching it sprout, witness it expand the first leaves and finally mature into a full-grown plant bearing flowers and fruits is some indescribable joy inside the core of the heart. But sniffing the flowers, touching the gorgeous petals, enjoying the gentle fragrance can turn out to be the most unpleasant allergy-induced health gamble. So before you start gardening at the onset of spring, fortify yourself with all the knowledge regarding the health hazards associated with the plants and undergo adequate precautions especially if you are hypersensitive to plant allergens. Consult experts on the subject and use safe methods of pest control , weeding, fertilizing and trimming.


Keep away from wind pollinated flowers -

Avoid plants that have profuse pollen production. The wind-pollinated plants are mostly of this type. They throw away abundant dust-like bouyant pollen lavishly to pollinate the surrounding female flowers. As there is no carrier for their pollen, (since the flowers are insconspicuous , insects are not lured to them) they have to rely on their pollen production capability and air current to transport them through significant distances to fertilize their female counterparts and keep their races alive. It is worth studying biologically, but can put you in intense misery. Identify them by their clustered flowering nature and light powdery abundant pollens . Examples are: ragweed, Bermuda grass, and sagebrush.


On the contrary, the insect pollinated flowers are very large, showy, colorful, gorgeous, with sweet perfumed nectar and thus very attractive to the insects (bees, wasps, butterflies, beetles etc) as well as man. These dashing blossoms do not have an abundance of pollen thus their limited amount of pollen is delivered by the insects only to the female flowers or floral parts to pollinate or fertilize them. As a result, these pollens have been made large, sticky and heavy by mother nature and are unable to just fly around in the surrounding air. Instead they stick to the insect body parts and pollinate the female flower when the insect visits one. These plants are perfectly safe and include tulips, pansies, poppies, azaleas, yucca, hibiscus, boxwood, begonias and irises. However, the strong odor of these plants may act as an irritant to allergy prone people. Such plants include rose, rosemary, narcissus, star jasmine, daffodil, lily and gardenia. Also sensitive nose may revolt against citrus, sycamore, elm, oak, birch and eucalyptus trees. Instead plant pine, fir or palm trees.


Some less allergic trees are - Pine, plum , fig, podocarpus, fir, pear and orchids.
Some less allergic ornamental flowers are - Azalea, camelia, Begonia, peony, bulbs, bougainvillea and pansy


The perfect timing for gardening -

The morning is the best time when the flowers receive their first light and slowly opens up in response. Gradually, they start pollen discharge and dispersal and you can find a plentiful of pollen grains in the air during early hours in the morning. The process slows down as the sun rises and again starts during the daprting time of the sun. So, if you are allergic, go not go near your yard/garden in the morning or the evening when the pollen count is the maximum. Avoid dry, breezy weather and roam about in the afternoon or midafternoon sun to enjoy the beauty. Check the time and restrict your outdoor activities within certain time of the day. Of course if you want that morning freshness be there and back before the dew dries and pollen takes to the air.

Cool, cloudy days or rain hinder pollen dispersal while the process is activated on warm, sunny days. Windy days are the worst. The air current helps the dehiscence of pollen pouches efficiently that are blown your way. Plan your gardening accordingly. A few hours after the rain is very safe when all the pollen in the air gets washed out. Use pollen masks to mow, rake or trim and keep your lawn clear of the dangerous weeds like nettle, dock, English plantain, pigweed, and ragweed.



Take proper dosage of your medicines


Even after following your doctor's instructions, you are suffering, then have him checked if you are taking the proper dosages of the prescribed medicines. A lot of medicines are now in the market to relieve you of your pain and sufferings without causing drowsiness. Study their effects and talk with an allergy specialist to keep the irritants away from your life.





Last but not the least, at the first signs of infection, that mainly enters through the nasal pores, use the nasal saline spray even before you could call in the doctor. It may rinse out the irritating pollens and can cut down on the need for medication and overall discomfort. Do it everytime you go outside and, believe me, as I have tried it, you will suffer much less.

The allergy season is coming soon and I hope this time you will be confident enough to take better care of yourself.

Good luck!!