Good Monday Morning!
I hope everyone had a lovely Mother’s Day. My children made me breakfast and my husband grilled dinner. I had a relaxing day. A perfect Mother’s Day!
I hope everyone had what they consider to be the perfect day…
Today’s topic is one that I am all too familiar with… allergies!
An allergy or hypersensitivity reaction is the term used to describe a condition where the immune system causes an immune response when in contact with a certain substance. In other words, the immune system has a reaction when exposed to something specific — something that shouldn’t typically cause a reaction..
Hypersensitivity reactions are divided into 4 common categories.
- The first type or the immediate hypersensitivity reaction is commonly known as allergy. It may be the root cause of, and may lead to a predisposition to, diseases and disorders like asthma and anaphylaxis. An allergy is mainly caused by the antibodies IgE and IgG; these are responsible for releasing the histamine substances which result in the symptoms of allergies.
- The second type or the ‘cytotoxic’, antibody-dependent immune response where immune cells kill other cells that are already coated with antibodies.
- The third type is called an immune complex disease which is caused by the hypersensitivity of complements and IgG. This type of hypersensitivity is life-threatening as it affects the immune system.
- The fourth is called the delayed-type or cell-mediated immune memory response. This type of response is mainly due to T-cells, a type of white blood cell that creates a response when they come in contact with a substance that it had come in contact with before. T-cells memorize these substances, and when they encounter them again, create antibodies against these substances. It takes time for the T-cells to elicit this response thus the term delayed hypersensitivity.
There are different triggers that cause allergic reactions. The most common allergies are:
- Seasonal Allergy – As the name suggests, it only occurs at specific times of the year. An example of this is hay fever. Hay Fever causes allergic rhinitis and is rampant during spring and fall due to the abundance of pollens and grasses in the air.
- Asthma Allergy – An asthma allergy causes inflammation of the lungs and airways. This allergy is caused by the inhalation of allergens and triggers allergic reactions and asthma attacks.
- Skin Allergies – Atopic dermatitis or eczema is a skin condition caused by physical contact with an allergen. This type can produce rashes on the face, around the eyes, behind the knees, and elbows, itching, and skin dryness.
- Dust and Mold Allergies – A dust allergy is used to describe allergy from microscopic organisms present in dust. It is very common in houses and buildings. Mold allergies are from the mold spores and are also found in homes and buildings.
- Food Allergy – This is one of the most common types of allergies. Food allergens, once eaten, can cause hives, swelling of the mouth, tongue, and face, and in severe cases, anaphylaxis – a life-threatening immune response. The most common food allergens are peanuts, shellfish, eggs, and milk.
- Drug Allergy – This allergy is possibly the most dangerous of all allergies as its impact is internal and can directly affect blood vessels and major organs. Many people are allergic to certain antibiotics, such as sulfa antibiotics. Your doctor should always ask if you have an allergy to any medications before prescribing any.
These are just a few of the common types of allergies that people suffer from. Since allergies can be life-threatening, it’s worth remembering what allergens trigger these reactions so as to avoid them in the future.
That section was a little scientific, wasn’t it? In the next sections, we will look at three of the more common allergies in depth: seasonal, mold, and food.
I. Seasonal Allergies
The arrival of warm weather is a blessing for most, but for many people, seasons like spring and fall mean something much worse: seasonal allergies. The sneezing, itchy eyes, headaches, and runny noses can ruin a bright, sunny day and force sufferers inside for the season, since seasonal allergies are easily triggered. This condition can severely interfere with a person’s daily routine or work performance.
Most cases are triggered by exposure to pollen grains, molds, mites, and other particles in the air, which means anyone suffering from seasonal allergies can be affected simply by walking outside. People with conditions such as asthma and allergic rhinitis are even more at risk. These allergies arise when an irritant makes its way into the nasal passage. There, it comes in contact wih the mucous membranes.
In someone unaffected by allergies, the irritant would cause a mere sneezing fit, during which the particle would be expelled. If you do suffer from allergies, it’s much more likely that the membranes will begin to swell. From there, the irritant causes other adverse reactions, such as breathing difficulties, itchiness of the throat, watery eyes, and a runny nose.
In some rare cases, an allergic reaction can prove to be extremely serious. These cases require the victim to be hospitalized for their treatment. However, seasonal allergies are often only moderately severe, and on the more severe end of the spectrum, sufferers may believe they are suffering from a bad cold.
How to Prevent Seasonal Allergies
While there isn’t a cure for seasonal allergies, there are many ways to prevent them. One way is to increase your intake of essential fatty acids. Increasing these, especially those that come from fish and flaxseed, can help prevent allergic reactions during peak allergy seasons. You may also want to eat foods rich in Vitamin C, like fresh fruits and vegetables. Doing so can reduce the levels of histamine in your blood.
Another way to avoid allergic reactions is to simply stay inside; however, this isn’t practical for most people. Check the local weather alerts for their pollen levels. If they are high, you may find it helpful to stay indoors during these periods to lessen your exposure.
If you absolutely must go outside, cover your nose and mouth with something thick to prevent yourself from inhaling any irritants. Make sure to change your clothes as soon as you get inside, since pollen can cling to the fabric and cause a reaction if you don’t change right away. Particles can cling to strands of your hair, even if you’ve been outdoors for a few minutes. A quick shower is the best way to ensure that you’ve rid yourself completely of contaminants.
If you follow these simple steps, you can limit the negative effects of these allergies.
II. Mold Allergies – Symptoms and Relief
Many people suffer allergic reactions from airborne mold spores. As mold thrives in dark, damp environments; basements, piles of leaves and garbage cans are common places for it to grow. Since there’s no permanent treatment for these allergies, treatment is based on the avoidance of the allergens and gaining relief from the often-distressing associated symptoms.
Symptoms of Mold Allergies?
Before looking for mold allergy relief, you need to verify that you are indeed suffering from a mold allergy and not some other health problem.
Some of the common signs that you should look out for include: hives or rashes, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, a runny or stuffy nose, and breathing difficulties or wheezing. Since these are essentially the same symptoms that come with many other allergies and are also similar to the symptoms of hay fever, it’ll require a process of elimination to determine if mold is the root cause of your allergy.
Are Medications Effective for Relief?
There is plenty of disagreement on whether medications are the best form of mold allergy relief treatment. These medications do normally work quickly and can provide immediate relief . Of course, some people don’t respond well to medication and may suffer from side effects.
Medications are also not always recommended for those who have special medical conditions. If you have an underlying medical condition or are taking other medications, it is important that you consult with a doctor or pharmacist before taking any medications for mold allergy relief.
Is There Natural Relief?
If you wish to achieve relief from the symptoms of mold allergy without medications, the obvious and most effective natural way to prevent mold allergy symptoms is to avoid exposure to the allergens.
There are certain food sources that are more prone to mold. These foods include: cheese, buttermilk, sour cream, soy sauce, mushrooms, breads and yeast items, and dried fruits. Foods containing vinegar such as salad dressings, pickles, and sauerkraut are also common culprits. This doesn’t mean you have to abstain from these foods, but it does require extra care in the storage, handling, and preparation of them. It has been noted that people who consume large amounts of garlic seldom suffer from allergies.
Choosing a treatment will also depend on how serious your allergies are. If the symptoms are very severe, it may be necessary to take medications or to have an inhaler on hand. For milder symptoms, focusing on reducing exposure may be preferred, especially if the medications themselves cause further problems.
Cleaning the house and making sure it’s as free of mold and dust as possible is a very effective way of reducing the cause of allergic reactions. Having the vents in your home and your furnace filters cleaned on a regular basis may also greatly improve the air quality and reduce allergens within your home.
In the event you do have to enter damp, dark places such as your basement or crawlspace for some reason, make sure to wear a mask over your nose and mouth. If you know you have a mold sensitivity or allergy, it’s best to avoid going to these places altogether.
III. Understanding Food Allergies
Food allergies are an immune response triggered by perceived threats to the body. These reactions can vary from minor irritation to anaphylaxis – a potentially life-threatening condition. Normal function of our immune system identifies and removes these potential threats to the body by creating antibodies.
In some cases, this immune response gets confused and certain foods—or specifically the proteins they consist of—become recognized as allergens. This can trigger an often-inflammatory response of varying severity that can affect the skin, airways, sinuses, or digestive system.
Why Do We Develop Food Allergies?
Little is understood about why we develop food allergies although they are genetic in some circumstances. Some allergies may be outgrown in childhood, while others develop later in life. Research is currently underway to try and expand our understanding of food allergies as their occurrence along with various food sensitivities and intolerances are increasing, particularly in children.
Few treatment options exist, and avoidance is the best and often only option when faced with known food allergies. In severe reactions, the protein responsible is generally obvious with symptoms appearing almost immediately, most often requiring emergency medical intervention. Peanuts, tree nuts (such as cashews), and shellfish are the most common foods associated with such life-threatening episodes.
Mild reactions are often harder to diagnosis as they can occur hours after the problem food was consumed. Certain symptoms especially in younger children or infants may be harder to recognize and associate with dietary activities; such as infantile colic, reflux, or failure to thrive.
Certain foods are known to have a higher incidence of triggering reactions, such as cow’s milk, eggs, soy products, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, wheat, fish, and shellfish. When allergy symptoms are suspected, further testing or implementation of an exclusion diet may be carried out to determine the trigger (or triggers) responsible, and certain blood and skin prick tests are available to identify or indeed exclude specific allergens.
There’s an increasing recognition of the triggers associated with allergies by the food provider chain as well as sufferers and their families and caregivers. Improved labeling of foods which may contain life-threatening allergy triggers is of great assistance to those at risk. An added bonus of such labeling is the increase in public awareness of the dangers of food allergies. This doesn’t lessen the need for constant vigilance on the part of the allergy sufferer.
The risks associated with food allergies unfortunately cannot be treated, they can however be minimized by careful planning. In some cases, antihistamines may be administered to control or relieve mild symptoms, while emergency treatment is required in the event of severe anaphylactic responses.
Individuals with known severe allergies often carry an ‘epipen’ or epinephrine auto-Injector which can rapidly reverse the effects of anaphylaxis. Identification, exposure management strategies and education; including emergency first aid of care givers (particularly in children) are the most important issues when dealing with food allergies and their associated symptoms.
Remember to discuss your management of your allergies with your physician or other health care provider before starting any treatment regimen.
Whew! That was a lot of information right? Allergies are an important topic to be aware of –especially if you or someone in your family suffers from them. These three are the ones that are the most likely ones that most of us will run into…
Next week, we will look at Food allergies vs. Food Sensitivities — a big topic as the prevalence is increasing…
Do you have allergies? How do you deal with them? Tell us in the comments.
Loving Life–The Reboot!