General Allergy Information
This information is about allergies. It covers what allergies are, why people have them, what makes them occur, and what to do about them.
An allergy is your body’s abnormal reaction to a foreign substance such as feathers, pollen, cat dander or strawberries. The body’s defenses form antibodies to “fight” the foreign invader–even though there’s no real need to. So all the antibodies do is to cause reactions within the body–reactions like stuffy nose, wheezing, hay fever, eczema, and hives. These are called “allergic reactions”. Most allergic reactions happen immediately, but some show up hours or even a day later.
Allergic reactions are unpredictable. The tendency to have these reactions is usually inherited–but people don’t inherit specific allergies. A tendency to have allergies continues through a person’s like–but the symptoms may change over the years. For example, a baby may have eczema, which clears up in early childhood. Then later, the child may develop a nasal allergy or asthma.
Allergic reactions may also be affected by other things like climate or infection–and especially by physical or emotional stress.
Allergic reactions are caused by things called “allergens”. Many common foods can act as allergens, including milk, eggs, fruits, nuts and shellfish. Many substances around us can also act as allergens–things like house dust, pollen, pets, bee stings, and mold.
Sometimes, the cause of an allergy is obvious. If you break out in hives every time you eat strawberries, you’re probably allergic to them. If you wake up every morning with a stuffy nose, you may be allergic to your feather pillow. If you feel fine through most of the year, but have hay fever every Spring or Fall, you may be allergic to the pollen produced during those seasons.
Here is how to deal with an allergy. The basic defense is to avoid the allergen that causes it. To go back to our examples, don’t eat strawberries, or replace your feather pillow with a Dacron pillow.
But what if you can’t avoid the allergen? If your reaction is fairly mild, try a non-prescription antihistamine such as Chlor-trimetron or Benadryl. An antihistamine may help relieve your symptoms.
If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to see your health care provider. He or she may prescribe a stronger medication–or you may be referred to an Allergist for evaluation. If referred, you’ll receive a very detailed questionnaire, and probably some allergy skin tests to help determine what causes your allergic reactions. Finally, the Allergist will recommend specific treatments to manage your allergies.
But no matter what methods you use to control your allergies, remember that they are affected by your physical and emotional health. If you’re healthy, you can tolerate a greater amount of the things that you’re sensitive to.
They include allergies to foods, pollen, medication and environmental allergens and asthma.
Remember these key points:
- Allergic reactions are caused by the body’s response to foreign substances.
- The tendency to have allergic reactions can be inherited.
- Allergic reactions can last throughout life–though they may take different forms at different times.
- Try to manage an allergy by avoiding the substance that causes it, and, if necessary, by trying a mild antihistamine.
- If that doesn’t work, see your health care provider for evaluation and possible referral to an Allergist.
Related – Allergies to MedicationsTags: allergy, allergy reactions, antibodies, Allergies, medication allergies