What are Allergies?

An allergy is a reaction of the body to a certain food or substance.

This is most common in children. Some allergies disappear when a child grows up, even though many are lifelong. Adults may develop allergies to things they were not previously allergic to.

Allergies can be annoying and affect your daily activities, but most allergic reactions are mild and controllable.

Sometimes severe reactions occur, but they are not uncommon.

What Causes Allergic Reactions?

Allergy occurs when the body’s immune system responds to a substance as if it were harmful.

It is not clear why this happens, but most people have a family history of allergies or closely related conditions such as asthma or eczema.

The number of allergy sufferers is increasing every year.

The causes of this are not understood, but one of the most important theories is the result of living in a cleaner environment without germs, which reduces the number of germs that our immune system has to deal with.

It is thought to cause an exaggerated reaction when it comes in contact with harmless substances.

Common Types of Allergies

Substances that cause allergic reactions are called allergens.

More common allergens include:

  • grass and tree pollen – allergy to it is known as high fever (allergic rhinitis)
  • dust myths
  • animal fur, small fragments of skin or hair
  • food – especially nuts, fruits, shellfish, eggs and cow’s milk
  • bites and insect bites
  • drugs – including ibuprofen, aspirin and some antibiotics
  • latex – used to make some gloves and condoms
  • mold – releases small particles into the air that you inhale
  • household chemicals – including detergents and dyes

Most of these allergens usually do not harm people who are not allergic to them.

Allergy Symptoms

Allergic reactions usually occur within minutes of allergen exposure.

They can cause:

  • sneezing
  • runny nose
  • red, itchy eyes
  • cough
  • skin rash
  • worsened asthma or eczema symptoms

Most allergic reactions are mild, but sometimes a bad reaction called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock can occur.

Allergies are a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment.

How to Manage an Allergy

In many cases, the most effective way to control an allergy is to prevent the allergen from causing a reaction as much as possible.

For example, if you have a food allergy, you should check your food ingredient list for allergies before eating.

There are also many medications to prevent the symptoms of allergic reactions, including:

  • Antihistamines – can be used if you experience symptoms of the reaction or before you are exposed to an allergen to stop the reaction.
  • decongestants – tablets, capsules, nasal sprays or liquids that can be used as a short-term treatment for a stuffy nose
  • lotions and creams, as well as moisturizers (emollients) – reduce redness and itching of the skin
  • steroid medicines – sprays, drops, creams, inhalers and tablets that help reduce redness and inflammation due to allergic reactions

In some people with severe allergies, treatment may be called immunotherapy.

This involves exposing the allergen in a controlled manner for several years so that your body gets used to it and is less likely to respond.