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Allergies

Allergy is an abnormal reaction or increased sensitivity to certain substances. The allergic individual produces symptoms when exposed to these substances, which are harmless to non-allergic people. The main reason for this is that allergic people make a special type of antibody called immunoglobin E (IgE), which can react with environmental substances in a harmful way. These substances which lead to secretion of IgE antibodies are called allergens.

allergiesThe reaction between allergens and IgE antibodies causes the release of substances such as histamine, which produce allergic symptoms in the skin, nose, eyes, chest, etc. The most common allergens are animal dander, air pollutants, pollens (trees, grass, and weeds), house dust, house dust mites, moulds, some drugs, and many foods, especially fish, eggs, dairy, wheat and nuts. Bee and wasp stings may cause allergic reactions, with fatal results in rare cases. Additionally, feathers, wood, dyes, cosmetics, and perfumes may act as allergens.

Two main types of allergies

  1. Seasonal allergies like hay fever are more common in the spring when plant pollination begins. Trees and grass cause most symptoms in the spring, while ragweed is responsible for the majority of autumn symptoms. 
  2. Perennial allergies are usually year-round problems. Common triggers for perennial allergies include mould spores, pet dander and dust mite. 

A distinction needs to be made between anaphylactic shock and common allergy/intolerances. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency as it is a severe allergy, which causes constriction of the airways and shuts down the respiratory system, causing death. General allergies or intolerances are just the body’s way of over-reacting to a substance that is totally harmless. The allergen should be identified as soon as possible and avoided. In some cases, it is possible to de-sensitize the body to the allergen over a few months of treatment.

Symptoms of allergy

Skin-related allergy symptoms

  • Itching 
  • Redness 
  • Burning 
  • Eruptions, rashes and/or hives 
  • Dry skin 

Eye-related allergy symptoms 

  • Itching from the eyes 
  • Redness 
  • Watery eyes 
  • Foreign body sensation in eyes 

Respiratory tract-related allergies 

  • Wheezing 
  • Cough 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Congestion 
  • Feeling of suffocation 

Allergic rhinitis symptoms

  • Watery or runny nose and eyes 
  • Itching nose, eyes and/or throat 
  • Nasal congestion with stuffy nose 
  • Post-nasal drip (PND) 
  • Redness of tip of the nose 

Gastro-Intestinal tract-related allergy symptoms

  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhoea 
  • Cramping  
  • Gas and bloating

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