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ALLERGY

Allergy is a response of the defense system to certain substances termed allergens, which usually are harmless and does not bother most other people. Allergy erupts when your body reacts to something it is abnormally sensitive to. When you come in contact with any allergen your body will defend itself by releasing substances known as antibodies. The ensuing reaction between antibodies and allergens trigger the release of 'Histamine' and other chemicals, which cause the symptoms of allergy.

CAUSES

  • Environment: Grass pollen, animal hair, feathers, dust mites, chemicals and industrial pollutants and certain plants.
  • Pollen
  • Dust mites
  • Mold spores.
  • Pet dander.
  • Food.
  • Insect stings.
  • Medicines.

Almost any food can bring on an allergic response. The commonest being milk, cheese, eggs, nuts, fish and shell-fish, wheat and flour, chocolates and artificial colourants. Other factors: You can be allergic to soaps, perfumes, detergents, insect bites, antibiotics, cosmetics and jewellery.

Infection of the lung, which can be bacterial, viral predisposes to asthma.Emotional stress is a known trigger factor for an asthmatic attack. Over strenuous exercise and inhalation of cold air and climatic changes are also trigger factors as are certain drugs like aspirin.

SYMPTOMS

1. Allergies can cause a runny nose, sneezing, itching, rashes swelling, and asthma. Itching, redness, hives, blisters, urticaria, swelling of face and body indicate a skin allergy or food allergy. Stomachache, nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting are seen in food allergies.

2. Pain and swelling of joints, stiffness is seen with drug allergies.

3. Rarely a patient may go into anaphylactic shock within minutes of coming in contact with an allergen. This is a medical emergency.

DO'S & DON'TS

1. There are three steps to be taken when dealing with an allergy. Firstly, identify the cause or allergen Secondly, avoid it.

2. Thirdly, if avoidance is impossible, treat the symptoms. Keep a diary and try to trace a pattern or relation between your allergic reaction and the allergen. E.g. Sneezing while doing housework could mean you are allergic to house dust.

3. Do breastfeed your baby for the first 6 months to strengthen the immune system and avoid contact with allergens such as in cow's milk.

4. Take steps to deal with stress, anxiety and tension as these can influence the frequency and severity of symptoms.Good nutrition, balanced diet, adequate rest and relaxation will be beneficial.

AVOID ALLERGENS BY

1. Choosing fresh unprocessed food.

2. Checking food labels for additives.

3. Taking extra care like wearing gloves while using detergents and cleaners Clean your house, or vacuum frequently to get rid of dust mites, animal hair, etc.

4. Remember that most allergens are in themselves harmless. It is your body's abnormal response and not the allergen that does the damage. So coming in contact with the offending substance will not hurt, as long as you can control your reaction to it.

5. Inform the health care personnel about drugs to which you are allergic to In case of severe breathlessness, giddiness, and skin rash feeble pulse