What is an allergy?
As defined, “Allergy is a condition when the immune system reacts abnormally on the exposure of any substance.” All humans have an immune system, which works as a defense mechanism against foreign substances attacking the body. The immune system genetically differs from person to person. Since allergic reactions depend on the immunological response, they are also the variable person to person depending on the factor.
Basic Mechanism of an Allergic Response
The body produces antibodies against antigens when they enter inside our body. In the case of allergy, the substance might not be harmful, but still, the body reacts against it due to hypersensitivity. From different types of antibodies in the human body, immunoglobulin E antibodies (IgE) binds to the allergen, then attaches to the receptors on the mast cells or basophils cells, where it triggers the release of inflammatory chemicals like histamine and cause allergic response and symptoms.
Common symptoms and signs of allergy
There are several symptoms like Skin rashes, hives, itching, fever, swelling, shortness of breath, runny nose, watery eyes, mouth itching, eczema, diarrhea, dizziness, fainting, food poisoning, skin bumps, burning sensation, constant chest congestion, sleeping difficulty, fatigue, puffy eyes.
Causes of allergy and their types
There are many types of allergies based on the kind of factor or allergen, causing it.
It can be any of the following significant factors.
Common types of allergies are:
- Drug allergy: Due to the consumption of certain drugs during illness.
- Example: Antibiotics like penicillin, pain relievers like aspirin, and some chemotherapy drugs.
- Food allergies: Reactions happen due to the consumption of certain types of foods.
- Example: Shell fishes, lobsters, crabs, peanuts, walnuts, milk and milk products, eggs, soy wheat, etc.
- Contact dermatitis: On contact with any substance which gives skin reactions.
Example: Soaps, latex rubber, cosmetics, fragrances, jewelry, plants, etc.
- Animal allergies: Reactions caused due to proteins found in animal skin cells, saliva, and urine. The dead skin flakes in pets usually shed it. Often, people are allergic to cats and dogs.
Common Drugs used in allergic reactions
Anaphylaxis during allergy
It is a life-threatening allergic reaction wherein the body produces chemicals in response to the allergen in the body. Due to this over secretion, the body goes in shock in minutes or seconds.
Prevention of allergy
- Avoid contact with allergens.
- Consulting a doctor on severe symptoms.
- Take medicines as prescribed.
- Carry epinephrine
Diagnosis of allergy
- The person can notice specific symptoms after consumption of certain foods, drugs, or on exposure to any substance.
- A skin test by taking a sample of the area which is affected by redness or blister.
- Blood test: RAST (Radio allergosorbant test ) or immunoCAP tests are performed by collecting blood samples of the patient, to check the IgE levels in the blood.
Treatment of allergy
- Avoid allergen substances and food.
- Medications are available in the form of pills, liquid, nasal spray, eye drops.
- Treatment in the form of immunotherapy is considered for severe allergies. In immunotherapy, a series of injections of purified allergens is usually given for a few years.