Allergy is your body’s reaction to a substance that it views as a harmful invader. It can be something you eat, inhale in your lungs, inject into your body, touch or smell.
Allergy symptoms range from mild coughing, sneezing, hives, rashes, itchy eye, runny nose, scratchy throat to life-threatening symptoms such as decreased blood pressure, breathing problem and asthma attack.
The treatment options for allergy include antihistamines, decongestants, nasal steroids, asthma medicines and immunotherapy, etc.
Allergy reactions happen quickly within a few minutes of exposure to the allergen. The most common symptoms of allergy include:-
- Facial swelling
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
- Runny or blocked nose
- Wheezing and coughing
- Red and itchy rashes
- Tingling in the mouth
- Red, itchy and watery eyes
- Itching of eyes, nose and mouth
- Swelling of the face, throat, tongue or lips
- Worsening of asthma or eczema symptoms
Allergic reactions are mild in most cases. However, sometimes, a severe reaction called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock can also occur.
The signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis may include:-
- Loss of consciousness
- A drop in blood pressure
- Skin rashes
- A rapid and weak pulse
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe shortness of breath
To confirm whether you have an allergy, the doctor is most likely to ask detailed questions about the signs and symptoms that you have and perform a physical exam.
If you have a food allergy, the doctor asks you to keep a detailed diary of the foods you eat and if you have stopped eating the suspected food during the allergy evaluation.
The doctor may also recommend one or both of the following tests. However, do keep in mind that the results of the test can falsely be positive or negative.
- Skin Test:- This is done to identify the allergens that are causing allergy symptoms. During the test, the doctor picks your skin with an extract of an allergen and then checks the skin’s reaction. If a skin test can’t be performed, a blood test is done.
- Blood Test:- This test is not as sensitive as the skin test. With this test, the doctor evaluates the number of antibodies produced by your immune system. A higher level of certain antibodies indicates a possible allergy to that allergen.
With proper and timely treatment, the symptoms of allergy can be controlled easily and quickly. The treatment of allergy mainly includes medications and immunotherapy.
Below is a shortlist of medicines that you can take after consulting a doctor:-
- Nasal corticosteroids:- These are nose sprays that reduce swelling, stuffy, runny or itchy nose.
- Antihistamines:- These block histamine and calm sneezing, itching, runny nose and hives. Antihistamines come in the forms of pills, liquids, melting tablets or nose sprays.
- Mast cell stabilisers:- They stop your body from releasing histamine and help with itchiness, watery eyes, runny nose. They come in the form of eye drops and nose sprays.
- Decongestants:- These reduce the stuffiness by shrinking swollen membranes in the nose. However, it may cause some side effects if you use it more than three days in a row.
- Corticosteroid creams or ointments:- These help in relieving itchiness and stop the spread of skin rashes. Discuss with your doctor if rashes don’t improve even after using these creams or ointments for a week.
- Oral corticosteroids:- These can be helpful in reducing swelling and severe allergic reactions. However, they can cause some serious side effects. Therefore, make sure to take these medications under the strict supervision of your doctor.
- Epinephrine:- This comes in a pre-measured and self-injectable device. Epinephrine is considered the most important medicine to give in case of anaphylaxis.
The doctor recommends allergen immunotherapy for allergies that are not completely relieved by other treatment options. This treatment involves a series of injections of purified allergen extracts, which are given over a period of a few years.
Immunotherapy also comes in the form of a tablet that you need to place under the tongue until it dissolves. The doctor may also use sublingual drugs to treat some pollen allergies as well.
To treat allergies naturally, you can use the following:-
- Air filter
- Saline nasal irrigation
- Stinging nettle
- Peppermint essential oil
- Air conditioner and dehumidifiers
Apart from all these, you can also add honey and foods rich in Vitamin C to your diet.
No. Allergies can’t be cured completely. However, symptoms can be controlled using a combination of treatment options.
Yes. Sore throat is one of the most common symptoms of allergies.
Yes. Vitamin C protects your cells from damage, reduces the severity of allergic reactions and helps your body fight infections. These are the reasons the doctor recommends adding foods rich in Vitamin C to your diet.