When it comes to allergic reactions, most people think of sneezes, itchy eyes, a stuffy nose and sometimes difficulty breathing. But there can be other symptoms. Maybe instead you have hives or a rash – or you’re wheezing – or your lips swell a little and you feel nauseated – and you don’t know why.
If your symptoms seem severe, get medical help right away. But if they’re less severe, do some detective work. Jot down some notes about your symptoms. What exactly are they? Do they occur at a particular time of year – or all year long? After eating specific foods? After being close to certain animals – espe¬cially cats? When you wear jewelry? After a particular activity, such as yard work? Are you taking any medications? (Yes, you might be allergic to a drug.) Then, schedule a visit with your family physician to discuss your symptoms, a diagnosis and possible treatments.
What causes an Allergy?
In an allergic reaction, your immune system identifies a usually harmless substance as dangerous. The system sends antibodies – proteins produced to neutralize an invading foreign agent – to your body’s defense. The antibodies stimulate the body’s mast cells into action. Mast cells are found in the skin and in the lining – the nose, lungs and gastrointestinal tract. The mast cells release chemicals such as histamine, the chemical that causes the symptoms of allergy, including that runny nose.
Allergy Treatment Options:
When you’re young, you may outgrow an allergy as your immune system stops reacting to a particular allergen as strongly as it used to. For allergies you don’t outgrow, there is no absolute cure-but don’t despair. There are ways to reduce symptoms.
Many allergic symptoms respond well to over-the-counter or prescription medicines, including:
. Cromolyn nasal sprays and Inhalants; and
. Corticosteroid nasal sprays and inhalants.
Your doctor can help you select the best one for you.
If you’re allergic to dust mites – and at least 10°% of the popu¬lation is – reduce your symptoms by cleaning away dust at home. Wipe surfaces with a damp cloth to cut back on exposure to dust, for instance, and vacuum regularly, including under beds and even bedding and mattresses. (See list on the following page for more tips on fighting dust mites.)
Are your cats causing your misery? Find a new home for them – or if you can’t bear to part, at least keep them out of your bedroom.
If the cause of your allergy isn’t immediately obvious, your doctor may refer you to another specialist for some straight forward tests. The most common one is the allergy skin test, which -introduces a small quantity of a potential allergen onto the skin to produce visible reaction.