Even though doctors understand many things about allergies, the reason for their occurrence is still a mystery. Some people with allergies have a hereditary predisposition, but others have a completely random allergy. In general, if a family member is allergic to something, you’re more likely to exhibit symptoms. The reaction itself is mostly traced to a common substance.

While people can be allergic to anything, most common reactions are triggered by insect stings and bites, certain foods, medication, mold, pet dander, pollen, etc. If you have any allergies, here are a few things to learn about your reactions and a few ways to battle your disposition: 

Symptoms of allergies

Symptoms of allergies vary from person to person, and they greatly depend on the substance you’re allergic to. In most cases, allergies trigger skin issues, digestive issues, airway issues, sinuses, and nasal cavities. These reactions can be mild, but also very severe and even life-threatening. Mild reactions usually surface as itching, hives on the skin, rashes, nasal congestion, itchy throat, and watery eyes. 

On the other hand, severe allergic reactions can cause anaphylaxis, a very serious reaction that can result in a blood pressure drop, swelling of the throat, and difficulties in breathing. Those who experience a severe reaction should seek immediate medical help.

Other severe reactions might cause flushing of the face, feelings of anxiety and doom, stomach issues like diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, breathing difficulties, swallowing difficulties, dizziness and/or heavy beating of the heart. Some patients experience tightness in the chest, swelling of eyes, face, and tongue, weakness, wheezing or even fainting. 

How to diagnose allergies?

Allergies can be diagnosed pretty easily and quickly. Your primary care physician or allergist will perform an exam and ask you questions about your medical and family history. The most common tests for allergies are skin tests, elimination type, and blood tests. In case your symptoms are severe, your doctor will ask you to keep an allergy journal where you can write down all the suspicious substances and symptoms you experience. 

Skin tests are the most common way to test for allergies. They are pretty painless and relatively quick. Your skin test involves applying a small amount of allergen to the skin (with a patch, small prick to the skin, injection) and monitoring for any changes. This is the best way to diagnose food allergies (peanut and shellfish), mold, pollen, dust, animal dander, penicillin, bee or yellow jacket venom, and contact dermatitis. 

The elimination-type test or challenge test is very successful in diagnosing food allergies. It’s very simple and straightforward and involves removing certain foods from the diet and monitoring the effects of these eliminations and re-introductions to the diet. 

And finally, there are blood tests that allow doctors to test your blood for antibodies. These antibodies are specific proteins that your body produces when fighting allergens. This is a great option when skin or elimination tests are not possible or effective. 

Best treatment 

There are several ways people with allergies can alleviate their conditions, with allergy shots being quite effective. Allergy shots fall under immunotherapy and include regular injections over a longer period of time. If you decide to take immunotherapy for allergies, expect the elimination or reduction of your allergy attacks thanks to a small amount of allergen that triggers your symptoms.

The amount of allergen is so small that it can only stimulate your immune system without causing a full-blown reaction. These shots have proven to be a successful weapon against allergies that are immune to medication. They are also perfect for patients who can’t avoid allergens or can’t take certain medications that might help with their issues. Those who want to give up long-term medication use also often choose this type of immunotherapy. 

A little less effective but also less aggressive treatment for allergies, mostly food-related ones, like hives and itching, can be treated with over-the-counter drugs and creams. Prescription drugs are necessary for those with more severe symptoms (severe food allergies often require epinephrine or such). Seasonal allergies to certain plants are often alleviated with antihistamines and nasal sprays, but they can also respond well to allergy shots, so consult with your doctor.

Prevention

Once you know what kind of substances you’re allergic to, you can take steps to prevent attacks if possible. For instance, you can avoid exposure to allergies (possibly with foods, animals, etc.) and start carrying medication to help you in case of exposure. It’s possible that you won’t be able to avoid an allergic reaction 100%, but with these preventative steps, you can reduce the severity of symptoms. 

It’s smart to keep in mind that allergies can develop at any age and come suddenly without warning. So just because you were not allergic to something before doesn’t mean you can write off allergies forever. In case you experience any severe symptoms, seek immediate medical help, after which you can schedule a meeting with your chosen allergist to start treatment. 

Categories: Health

Nicolas Desjardins

Hello everyone, I am the main writer for SIND Canada. I've been writing articles for more than 12 years and I like sharing my knowledge. I'm currently writing for many websites and newspapers. I always keep myself very informed to give you the best information. All my years as a computer scientist made me become an incredible researcher. You can contact me on our forum or by email at [email protected].