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Symptoms and treatment of allergies

Allergies are the result of the body's immune system launching an attack when it comes in contact with a specific allergen. Allergens can be any substance from certain foods to animal dander to plant pollens. This response is flawed in that the triggering substance is not harmful to the body. Nonetheless, many individuals suffer from allergies that may manifest themselves as symptoms including allergic conjunctivitis (eye reddening) and cold-like symptoms (itchy, runny nose and sneezing) or asthma.

Research has shown that *allergies and asthma[Asthma] often go hand in hand, and in many cases asthma symptoms are brought on or aggravated by the presence of allergens in the environment. Sometimes individuals have an anaphylactic response which is an allergic reaction where more than one system in the body shifts into high gear. Some symptoms include a drop in blood pressure, swelling of the lungs resulting in restricted breathing, hives, vomiting and extreme anxiety attacks. Left untreated, anaphylaxis can result in death in only a few minutes.

Allergies are generally divided into three categories:

Food Allergies

The most common food allergies are to dairy products, peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts, fish and soy. You may have an allergy to a specific food if you experience hoarse breathing, wheezing or hives within two hours of eating it. An allergy may also cause facial swelling, fainting, diarrhea or breathing complications, among other symptoms. Sometimes the reaction is so severe it will result in death. The only way to treat a food allergy is to avoid that food completely. Info on food allergies is available on a number of government websites, as well as from your doctor.

Pet Allergies

Many people experience allergic reactions to dogs, cats and other pets. The common misconception is that the animal's hair itself causes the allergic reaction, but studies have shown that it is in fact the dander and components of the fluids that pets secrete (including saliva) that causes the allergic response. Hair acts as a collector for these allergens, and so the presence of hair is often associated with allergic reactions. These allergies may appear as cold-like symptoms of sneezing, itchy, watery eyes and trouble breathing. Skin allergies like redness, swelling and itching may also occur from animal bites or scratches.

Allergies to Nature

This group of allergies refers to the reactions caused by environmental factors such as tree and plant pollen, grass, dust and mold. Hay fever is one of many seasonal allergies to plant pollens such as ragweed and usually occurs in early summer. Because of the prevalence of dust and mold in homes, these types of allergies are common, but frequently go undiagnosed. Furthermore, they are difficult to control, as both substances exist in various areas of the home which are difficult to reach or clean. These allergies typically result in difficulty breathing, itchy or watery eyes and sneezing. They are sometimes referred to as sinus allergies, because they affect the sinuses and surrounding areas (eyes, throat and nose).

Allergy Diagnosis

Diagnosis of an allergy can be done by a medical specialist called an allergist. The allergist will perform a blood test or a skin test for a number of common allergens. For a skin test, a variety of different allergens are applied to the skin, which is coded by the types of allergens applied. The areas of the skin react with redness or hives, showing the substances that person is allergic to.

Many individuals suffer allergies as the result of their immune defense system. Your doctor may recommend a number of treatments including antihistamine medication to reduce the symptoms of allergic reactions. The most important strategy, however, is prevention – staying away from the substances which cause the allergy as much as possible.

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