by Katrina Canlas-Estrella, MD, FPDS
- What is an allergic reaction?
An allergic reaction is when a person’s immune system overreacts to an otherwise harmless substance (ex. Dust mite and peanut). In an allergic person, these substances are referred to as allergens. When a person is exposed to an allergen, his body produces antibodies that trigger the release of chemicals in the body like histamine, that causes the symptoms of allergies.
- How do allergic reactions look like and what are the signs and symptoms?
Allergic reactions vary, depending on several factors such as the allergen, the area of the body it affects, and the response of the person’s immune system. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. For example, food allergens can cause localized itching of the mouth, but they may also cause dangerous swelling of the tongue and the throat. Inhaled allergens like dust and pollen may cause itching of the eyes, sneezing, and wheezing. Some persons may be allergic to medications what can manifest as itchy rashes, hives, flushing of the skin, appearance of blisters, and swelling of the eyelids and the lips. Difficulty of breathing can occur in severe allergic reactions and can cause a potentially fatal condition called anaphylaxis.
- What are the causes of allergies?
Allergy can affect anyone. Some people are more prone to allergic problems when it runs in their family, while others may have no family history at all. People with other medical conditions such as asthma, eczema, chronic lung infections, and those with diseases that require intake of multiple drugs are more prone to developing allergies. Anything can be an allergen, Things that people are commonly allergic to include food (peanut, egg, soy, and shellfish), dust mite, tree and grass pollens, insect venom, medications, animal dander, and chemicals (hair dye, detergents).
- How are allergic reactions diagnosed?
Doctors can diagnose your allergies based on your symptoms. Your doctor may also perform tests (skin prick test, blood allergy test, and patch test) to find out what you are allergic to and how severe your allergies are.
- How are allergic reactions treated?
Treatment depends on what your allergens are and how severe your reactions are to them. In general, you can avoid having allergic reactions by avoiding the allergens that cause them. Your doctor may recommend having an “allergy diary” and medications to relieve your symptoms. Allergists may recommend shots to certain allergens like dust and pollen.
- How can allergic reactions be prevented?
A person with allergies should make a list indicating what he or she is allergic to and the type of allergy that he or she has. It is also helpful to inform their families, caregivers, schools, employees, and friends of what they are allergic to. Your doctor may also provide you with medications that you should carry with you at all times in case of an emergency. Early recognition of an impending allergic reaction will also prevent fatal complications.