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Disease at a Glance: Allergy

An allergy is a reaction by the body’s immune system to an allergen – a usually harmless   substance that the immune system mistakenly perceives to be a disease-causing parasite. Most common allergens include dust, pollen, pet dander, mold, bugs, dust mite, certain foods like peanuts, shellfish, lactose & soy products, and certain medications like penicillin, aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

 

Mistaking the allergen as an invader, the immune system produces immunoglobulin E antibodies, which bind to the allergen, and together they release histamine and other chemicals that cause an inflammatory response. Sensitivity to allergens varies from person to person, which is why it can trigger an allergic reaction in somebody and not in the other.

 

Common Symptoms

In the Eyes: Redness & itchiness

In the Nose: Swelling of the nasal mucosa

In the Respiratory Tract: Sneezing, coughing & wheezing

In the Skin: Rashes

In the Stomach: Vomiting, diarrhoea & abdominal cramps

 

Symptoms of an allergic reaction normally occur in the area that comes into contact with the allergen like the eyes (characterized by redness & itchiness), nose (swelling of the nasal mucosa), respiratory tract (sneezing, coughing & wheezing), skin (rashes) and stomach (vomiting, diarrhoea & abdominal cramps). The best treatment for allergies is to avoid known allergens – but often medications like antihistamines, steroids and decongestants are given to reduce the symptoms.

 

While most allergic reactions are not serious, anaphylaxis is life threatening. It is a severe, whole-body allergic reaction. Symptoms include chest tightness & respiratory difficulties, dizziness, abdominal pain, slurred speech, etc. Anaphylaxis requires urgent medical attention.

 


Key Diagnostic Tests: Skin test or blood test to identify specific allergens

 

Recommended Check-up: Physical Examination by the Doctor

 

Doctor Specialty: Allergist / Immunologist

 

Common Products: Face-mask, Gloves, Anti-Allergy Syrup & Topical Ointments, etc.


 

References:

1) American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (www.aaaai.org)
2) National Library of Medicine (www.nlm.nih.gov

 

 

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