Allergy is an abnormal reaction of the immune system when fighting foreign substances that enter the body which is basically harmless. This substance is known as an allergen. Some examples of allergens are food, pollen, drugs, dust, or cold air. Those are not dangerous things. Thus, the body’s immune system, in general, will not react negatively to these things.
Normally, the immune system will only react against foreign substances that can threaten health. For example are germs such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi, and other foreign particles can cause disease. The immune system should easily distinguish which substances are harmful and which are not. However, some people’s immune systems are not like that.
What is the allergic reaction process like?
Some people’s immune systems are unable or confused to distinguish which substances are safe and dangerous. So, when they interact with allergens whether, by inhalation, eating, or exposure to the skin, their immune system will immediately release special immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies and chemicals such as histamine and leukotrienes into the bloodstream.
These chemical compounds then will be delivered to the skin tissue, respiratory system, digestive tract, ear tissue, and other body systems to produce allergic reactions. This process is considered by the immune system as an effort to defend against “foreign substances” by removing it from the body. The immune response that works actively due to allergen exposure is similar to the response that gives rise to fever.
Usually, people who have allergies will be very easy to react to one or more of these things:
It is quite rare for people who react negatively to treatment until it is said to be allergic. Usually, this condition also likes to be misdiagnosed because it is considered a symptom or the side effects of drugs in general. The symptoms usually occur within a few minutes to a few hours after taking the drug.
Bees, wasps, and fire ants are stinging insects that commonly cause allergic reactions. When these insects sting you, they will release toxic substances. Most reactions due to being stung by these insects will recover within a few hours or days.
However, under a certain condition, insect sting poison can trigger life-threatening reactions. Insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, and certain flies can also cause reactions such as pain, redness, itching, stinging and mild swelling in the area around the bite.
3. Mushroom Spores
Fungi or spores that fly in the air can cause allergic symptoms. Some spores spread in dry and windy weather, and some spread with mist or dew when the air is damp. When you inhale spore flakes, the body regards it as an allergen and triggers symptoms.
4. Animal Fur
Allergens are basically not in animal hair but from the saliva, dandruff, or feces and urine of animals in the fur. These substances contain certain proteins that consider a threat to the body.
Animal fur can land on household furniture or even on the floor. When fur is inhaled or stuck to the skin, sensitive people can immediately feel symptoms such as sneezing or itching.
Food is one of the most common allergens. Food is a harmless substance. However, some people’s bodies can think of it as a foreign substance that can cause damage and danger. Some of the most common types of foods that cause allergic reactions are milk, eggs, nuts and seeds (peanuts, soybeans, wheat, etc.), to seafood (fish, shellfish, etc.).
Latex is a product made from rubber trees. Latex contains certain proteins that can be considered as dangerous substances by some people’s bodies. Latex allergies can cause itchy skin or even anaphylactic shock.
7. Dust Mites
Dust on your mattress, sofa, or rug is the most common allergen. Dust mites live and multiply easily in warm and humid places. Dust mite particles often float in the air and settle in areas of your home. Dust particles are too small to see and often cannot be removed just by being wiped or swept normally. Therefore, even a clean house can trigger an allergic reaction to dust mites.
Each person may bring different reactions. The intensity of symptoms can also vary from mild to severe. If you get allergens for the first time, symptoms may be mild. Symptoms may get worse if you are repeatedly exposed to allergens.
Symptoms of mild allergic reactions in general are:
- Rash (red spots on the skin that feels itchy)
- Skin blisters or peeling
- Itchy, stuffy or runny nose
- Red, swollen, runny or itchy eyes
- Stomach ache
A severe allergic reaction can cause symptoms such as:
- Stomach cramps
- Pain or tightness in the chest
- Trouble swallowing
- Dizziness (vertigo)
- Fear or anxiety
- Blushing face
- Nausea or vomiting
- Heart palpitations
- Swelling of the face, eyes, lips, or tongue
- Wheezing cough
- Asthma attack
- Difficulty breathing
If some symptoms above appear in the body, contact your doctor immediately so they can be treated as soon as possible.
When to see a doctor?
If you cannot treat allergies by using drugs sold in pharmacies, then see your doctor soon. You should also see a doctor if your symptoms interfere with your life and disturb your sleep.
In addition, you need to get emergency medical help if an allergic reaction occurs immediately severe and suddenly within seconds after being exposed to an allergen. This type of reaction is known as anaphylactic shock.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis that must be aware of are breathing difficulties and a dramatic and sudden drop in blood pressure. Without treatment, this condition can result in death within 15 minutes.
Until now, experts and doctors still do not know the exact cause of allergy or what causes the immune system to react differently to certain substances. However, allergy is a condition that can be inherited in a family. If you have a close family member who has an allergy, you will be at greater risk to experience the same condition.
A healthy immune system generally is easy to distinguish which compounds are harmful and which are not. However, some people’s immune systems are unable to work normally like this. Their immune system actually creates Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies and releases histamine to target certain allergens.
This means that if you are exposed to the same allergen in the future, the immune system will continue to produce allergic reactions. Being exposed to allergens repeatedly can also cause allergens to bind to immune cells and develop symptoms.
Some risk factors that make the body more prone to allergies are:
- Family history. If you have a family member who has allergies, most likely you can also be affected.
- Children are at greater risk of experiencing a reaction than adults. Allergies that are owned as a child will usually disappear when growing up, although not always.
- You have asthma. Asthma makes us potentially to experience other allergies.
Allergy Test and Diagnosis
Allergic reactions can be diagnosed by a doctor by conducting an examination and asking about your medical history. If the allergic reaction is severe, your doctor may ask you to make a detailed journal of your symptoms, what substances appear to trigger them, when they appear, and when you are exposed to allergens.
Your doctor then needs a test to determine what your allergen is. The most common types of allergy tests are:
- Skin test. This is the most common method used to find out why the body reacts to certain allergens. There are 3 types of skin tests are prick testing, patch testing, and intradermal testing.
- Challenge test.
- Immunoglobulin E (IgE) blood. This test is to measures the level of allergic substances and their effects on the body.
- Complete blood count (CBC). It is used to calculate the number of eosinophil white blood cells.
In addition, the doctor can follow up on the test with some of these procedures:
1. Elimination Test
The doctor will advise you to avoid or even use certain substances or objects. The goal is to find out whether your reaction has worsened or improved after exposure to the object. This process is often used to check what foods and drugs that can cause allergies.
In addition, the doctor will also check the body’s reaction using heat, cold, or other stimuli. In the case of a food allergy, the doctor can test it orally by giving you a small amount of food that is suspected as an allergen.
2. Test on the Eyelid
Sometimes, allergens will also be thawed and dropped into the lower eyelid to check for certain reactions. Since all of these procedures can be at risk, allergy tests should only be carried out under strict medical supervision by allergy specialists.
The best way to relieve allergy symptoms is to avoid the cause immediately. For example, stop eating certain food immediately or stay away from furry animals. Allergy is a condition that generally cannot be eliminated or totally cured. So, you must be ready to live with allergic reactions that can appear at any time.
However, you can avoid allergens and when they appear, symptoms can be controlled with the help of drugs. Usually, the doctor will suggest medication depending on the type of allergen, what reactions arise, and how severe your symptoms are. The following are medicines that commonly used to treat allergy:
Antihistamines can be purchased freely or obtained by prescription from a doctor. This drug is available in several forms, including:
- Capsules and pills
- Eye drops
- Nasal spray
Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory drugs that are available in several forms, namely:
- Creams and ointments for the skin
- Eye drops
- Nasal spray
- Inhalers for lungs
People with severe symptoms can get prescription medications in the form of corticosteroid pills or injections that are useful in the short term. Repeated use of corticosteroids without medical supervision can have side effects that are harmful to health. Always consult steroid use with your doctor.
Decongestants can help to relieve nasal congestion. Do not use a decongestant nasal spray for more than a few days because this drug can cause a rebound effect. However, decongestants in pill form do not have the same side effects. People who have high blood pressure, heart problems, or prostate problems must use decongestants with caution.
4. Allergy Injection
Injections (immunotherapy) will be given if the body cannot avoid allergens and the patient experiences symptoms of allergen reactions that are difficult to control. Allergy injection works by keeping the body from overreacting to allergens. Injections must be used regularly.
Injections will be given from the lowest dose and the subsequent injections will contain higher doses until the maximum dose is reached. Injections cannot be used by everyone and you must visit a doctor often to get this injection.
5. Sublingual Immunotherapy Treatment (SLIT)
Sublingual immunotherapy is a treatment procedure without injections. Medication is placed under the tongue to reduce the symptoms of a severe reaction. The doctor will give a low dose first.
6. Epinephrine Injection
Severe reactions or anaphylaxis need to be treated with a drug called epinephrine (EpiPen). Epinephrine function is to open the respiratory tract and raise blood pressure. This medicine is very useful for saving lives.
First Aid for Allergy Sufferers
If your closest person experiences a serious allergic reaction and cannot use medication, then help him or her to use it. If the person is unconscious, you should get medical help for him and do the following steps to prevent shock while waiting for help:
- Check whether the person is breathing
- Lay the person in a supine position on a flat surface
- Lifting the person’s foot higher than his or her heart
- Cover his or her body with a blanket
If you cannot bring medical assistance, immediately take the person to the nearest hospital.
You might not be able to prevent an allergic reaction. But there are some steps you can take to prevent future allergic reactions, by:
- Avoiding allergen exposure
- Seek medical treatment if you have allergens
- Carry drugs to prevent and treat anaphylaxis
Some of the things below can also help reduce or prevent the risk of allergies:
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- Breastfeeding can help prevent or reduce the risk of allergies when the baby is breastfed at 4 to 6 months.
- Change food patterns and intake if you have a family history of this condition. Discuss food and restrictions with the doctor.
There is evidence that shows the child will be immune if exposed to allergens during the first year of life. This theory is called the “hygienic hypothesis”. However, this theory does not apply to all toddlers.
If you have questions related to allergic reactions as well as treatment and prevention, consult your doctor.