The immune system plays a crucial role in maintaining the body's overall health and function. A healthy body is the result of a well-functioning metabolism and catabolism. However, sometimes the immune system can experience disturbances or react to foreign substances, leading to allergies or illnesses. To ensure optimal immune function, it's important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and consult with a healthcare professional if experiencing any issues.

What Are Allergies?

The human body's immune system has various reactions to its environment. Allergies are one of the symptoms or reactions that can occur due to disturbances or reactions within the immune system. The immune system fights off various groups of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses. However, in some cases, instead of fighting off the microorganisms, it causes discomfort or illness in the person. Allergic reactions can be caused by a variety of factors such as pollen, dust, food, or mold. It's important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the cause of your allergies and to find the best course of treatment.

Causes for Allergies

Allergies occur when a person's body is exposed to unwanted substances through consumption, inhalation, or direct or indirect contact with the skin. The sensitivity or resistance to allergy-causing substances varies from person to person. Many people have allergies to certain food substances and also have asthma. These allergic reactions are believed to be related to the antibodies produced by the body in response to those substances. Common symptoms of an allergic reaction include itching in the nose, sneezing, coughing, a runny nose, and in some cases, nausea. In severe cases, it can lead to a condition called anaphylaxis, which is characterized by severe allergic reactions.

Some common allergens include:

  • Household dust
  • Mites, spiders
  • Pollen
  • Mold
  • Animal urine or oil from the skin
  • Certain food items
  • Medicine
  • Bee stings
  • Feathers
  • Cockroaches
  • Lizards
  • Certain fruits and vegetables
  • Plants like latex
  • Certain smells
  • Pet dander from dogs or cats
  • Certain medications such as penicillin and aspirin

It is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional to identify the allergen and find the best course of treatment.

Symptoms of Allergic Reactions

Every immune system reacts differently to the allergens or substances it comes into contact with. The allergic symptoms can occur on any body part or organ, including the eyes, nose, mouth, sinuses, and throat, where the allergen goes into direct contact. Some common symptoms observed in allergic reactions include the following:

Mild Reaction:

  • Redness, itchy, and watering eyes
  • Red-colored, itchy, and dehydrated skin
  • Itchy and runny noses
  • Sneezing and coughing
  • Itchy ears and mouth
  • Asthma symptoms such as difficulty breathing, coughing, and slow breath
  • Itchy rashes or warts on the skin

Severe Reaction:

  • Swelling of the face, eyes, or tongue
  • Difficulty in swallowing or breathing
  • Abdominal cramps or pain
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Flushing of the face
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Heart palpitations
  • Unconsciousness
  • Fear or anxiety
  • Wheezing

These allergic reactions can occur in people of any age or gender. It depends solely on the functioning of the immune system, such as how it fights against germs and dust and how it reacts to each allergen (foreign substance). It's important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the cause of your allergies and to find the best course of treatment.

How to Diagnose Allergies? 

If your body or immune system shows abnormal reactions to any substance, the first step is to approach your doctor for a diagnosis. If you have an allergy, the doctor may perform one of the following tests to diagnose it:

  • Skin test: Skin tests are the most commonly used test for allergy diagnosis, particularly for skin allergies. In this test, the person is treated or scratched with the allergen and the production of antibodies to the allergen is measured. If the person is allergic to that allergen, the skin or the surface may give an itchy feeling within 15 minutes. Another test is the injection of the allergen into the skin and observing how the immune system works or reacts to it. Again, these skin test results can be seen within a short period.
  • Blood test: A blood test is also carried out to measure the antibodies, such as immunoglobulin, to the allergens. The most commonly used test is RAST (Radioallergosorbent Test), and the advanced level is the ELISA (Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay) test. However, this test takes time and is more expensive compared to the skin test for diagnosing allergies in the body.
  • Challenge test: In this test, the person is asked to swallow the allergen or eat the food to know the allergic reaction. This test is done when we are not sure about the symptoms shown by the allergens.

How to Treat Allergies? 

The treatments for allergies depend on the age, immune system, and how severe the allergy has affected the person. It also considers the affected person's overall health. Generally, two ways are followed to treat allergies: medicines and allergy shots.

  • Allergy shots: These treat people who have asthma, conjunctivitis, or hay fever. A mixture is made and is given weekly until the maximum dose is reached for the person. Most people will get relief with this treatment. It can be immunotherapy, but it takes time, and the person must continue taking allergy medications.
  • Sublingual immunotherapy: This is an advanced alternative to allergy shots. It can be done daily at home using the mouth, but it is currently only available for a few allergens.
  • Medicines: These are also available, depending on the symptoms. They can include nasal sprays, ointments for itches and rashes, or oral medications.

It's important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best course of treatment for your specific allergy and symptoms.

Final Thoughts

Allergies are common and though harmless in many cases, can also be harmful in some. It is thus apparent to be apparent of one's own allergies, take preventive measures, and see a doctor if symptoms escalate.

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