All you need to know about allergic reactions

All you need to know about allergic reactions
All you need to know about allergic reactions
An allergy is characterised by an adverse reaction to a completely harmless substance. In the vast majority of people, the allergen (the substance which triggers the allergic reaction) will have absolutely no effect. Allergies occur when the body’s immune system mistakes an allergen for a threat to the body; the body then memorises the allergen and starts to produce antibodies to try and fight the allergen. When the individual comes into contact with the allergen in the future, the antibodies will be released and chemicals will be released which cause an allergic reaction

Why do people have allergic reactions?

The reason why some people suffer from allergies and others don’t is poorly understood and research in this area in ongoing. However, some risk factors have been identified. Risk factors include:
  • Family history: some people are more prone to allergies than others; if you have a family history of allergies, you are more likely to develop an allergy; this is known as atopy.
  • Living with pets
  • Living with a smoker
  • Exposure to damp and mould

Common allergies

There are hundreds of different types of allergy but some are more common than others. Examples of common allergies include:
  • Food allergies, including nuts (some people have specific nut allergies, while others have allergies to all types of nut), shellfish, certain types of fruit, cow’s milk and wheat
  • Dust mites
  • Pet hair and skin
  • Wasp and bee stings
  • Pollen
  • Fungal spores and mould
  • Medications

What kinds of symptoms are associated with allergies?

Most people have mild allergies which produce symptoms such as:
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy eyes, nose and lips
  • Swelling
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Skin irritation
  • Sickness and diarrhoea
  • Sinus pain
If an individual has a very severe allergy, they may experience symptoms associated with anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis involves a whole body reaction to an allergen and it can be very serious and even life-threatening. Symptoms of an anaphylactic shock include:
  • Breathing problems
  • Unconsciousness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swelling of the throat and mouth
  • Weakness
  • Severe skin irritation

Treating allergies

Allergy control is very important because allergies can affect people’s everyday lives. Most allergies are effectively controlled by medications (such as antihistamines and decongestants) and lotions and creams which help to soothe symptoms caused by an allergic reaction.
If an individual has a severe allergic reaction which triggers anaphylactic shock, allergy control in the form of immediate treatment is required. If the individual has already been diagnosed with a severe allergy it is likely that they will have a shot of adrenaline with them at all times; this shot must be given to them as quickly as possible. If they do not have a shot of adrenaline with them, you should call 999 and wait for the paramedics to arrive; anaphylactic shock is very serious and can be fatal so it is important to seek help immediately.

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