An allergy is an overreaction of the body’s immune system to an otherwise completely harmless substance that comes into contact with the body through various means. Any substance that causes this type of reaction from an immune system is called an allergen. Common allergens include dust, pollen, pet dander, and insect venom.
Once a person who is susceptible to an allergic reaction comes into contact with an allergen, the immune system takes time to recognize and remember the substance. Once it becomes sensitive to the allergen, it starts producing antibodies to fight it off. This process of sensitization takes varying time, and may not be completed in some cases, which leaves the patient experiencing symptoms that do not quite blow up into a full allergic reaction.
Allergies can be seasonal, especially those that have pollen as the contributing allergen. These will mostly occur between April and May, when the pollen count in the air is high. Common allergic symptoms are inflammation and irritation in various parts of the body.
It is impossible to cure an allergy completely, therefore, the best allergy treatment for an allergic reaction is managing it by avoiding contact with the causative allergens. Avoid food and drinks that contain ingredients that cause allergies and, if possible, wear protective masks when exposed to pollen and dust. Avoiding pets such as cats and dogs also work for some patients whose allergen is animal hair.
Even though an allergy cannot be cured, its symptoms can be treated. There are various drugs available that will treat symptoms caused by various allergens. Most of these medications are over the counter, but it is advised to consult a medical practitioner before taking a particular type.
• Antihistamines: These are drugs that block the action of histamines, a chemical produced to fight allergic reactions and causes the tightening of the airway muscles and blood vessel walls. Antihistamines stop and counter these effects.
• Decongestants: These are short-term medications that help unblock noses that have been blocked due to hay fever, pet or dust allergy.
• Anti-leukotrienes: Swelling of various parts of the body is a common symptom with most allergies, and this is caused by leukotrienes released by the body. Anti-leukotrienes work by blocking the effects of these chemicals.
• Steroid Sprays: These corticosteroid sprays are used to help reduce nasal congestion. These sprays are applied to the inside lining of the nose.
This is a type of allergy treatment that seeks to rehabilitate the immune system. Here, gradually increasing doses of allergens are administered to a patient over a period of years. This is meant to induce long-term tolerance of the immune system to the allergen. This ensures reduced instances in which the allergen triggers the production of immunoglobulin, an antibody that is released during an allergic reaction to fight harmless substances. This therapy is only used to treat severe allergies, some which may be life threatening.
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