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Allergy definition

Allergies, also known as allergic diseases, are a number of conditions caused by hypersensitivity of the immune system to typically harmless substances in the environment. These diseases include hay fever, food allergies, atopic dermatitis, allergic asthma, and anaphylaxis. Symptoms may include red eyes, an itchy rash, sneezing, a runny nose, shortness of breath, or swelling. Food intolerances and food poisoning are separate conditions. Common allergens include pollen and certain food. Metals and other substances may also cause problems. Food, insect stings, and medications are common causes of severe reactions. Their development is due to both genetic and environmental factors. The underlying mechanism involves immunoglobulin E antibodies (IgE), part of the body's immune system, binding to an allergen and then to a receptor on mast cells or basophils where it triggers the release of inflammatory chemicals such as histamine. Diagnosis is typically based on a person's medical history. Further testing of the skin or blood may be useful in certain cases. Positive tests, however, may not mean there is a significant allergy to the substance in question.

There are many different causes of allergy and symptoms vary from mild to potentially life threatening. Allergy is also one of the major factors associated with the cause and persistence of asthma. Effective prevention and treatment options are available for most allergies. Allergy occurs when a person's immune system reacts to substances in the environment that are harmless for most people. These substances are known as allergens and are found in dust mites, pets, pollen, insects, ticks, moulds, foods and some medicines. A substance that is an allergen for one person may not be for another - everyone reacts differently. The risk of developing allergies is increased if other family members suffer from allergy or asthma.

What happens when you have an allergic reaction?

When a person who is allergic to a particular allergen comes into contact with it, an allergic reaction occurs. This begins when the allergen (for example, pollen) enters the body, triggering an antibody response. The antibodies attach themselves to special cells, called mast cells. When the pollen comes into contact with the antibodies, the mast cells respond by releasing certain substances, one of which is called histamine. When the release of histamine is due to an allergen, the resulting swelling and inflammation is extremely irritating and uncomfortable.

Asthma symptoms

Asthma symptoms like shortness of breath are often closely linked to allergies and exposure to allergic triggers, such as ragweed, pollen, animal dander or dust mites. Irritants in the air like smoke, chemical fumes, strong odors or extreme weather conditions can also be triggers. Sometimes exercise or an illness — particularly an illness that affects your breathing like flu or bronchitis — can bring on asthma symptoms. In addition, if you start wheezing or coughing during exercise, or if physical exertion makes it difficult for you to breathe, you may have exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. This is also known as exercise-induced asthma.

Treatment

If you feel like you can't avoid allergens, there are many medicines that can help control allergy symptoms. Decongestants and antihistamines are the most common allergy medications. They help to reduce a stuffy nose, runny nose, sneezing and itching. Other medications work by preventing the release of the chemicals that cause allergic reactions. Corticosteroids are effective in treating inflammation in your nose. An allergist will work with you to determine which medicines are best for you and how often and how much of them you should take - while eliminating or minimizing any side effects.

Allergists are specialists in diagnosing and treating asthma and other allergic diseases. And allergists are specially trained to identify the factors that trigger asthma or allergies. Asthma is sometimes hard to diagnose because it can look like other breathing problems, such as emphysema, bronchitis and lower respiratory infections. Some people with asthma do not realize they have it and are never treated. Sometimes the only symptom is a chronic cough, especially at night. In other cases, coughing or wheezing may occur only with exercise. Some people mistakenly think they have frequent bronchitis, since respiratory infections usually settle in the chest of people with asthma. To diagnose asthma and distinguish it from other lung issues, allergists rely on the combination of a medical history and a thorough physical examination, including certain tests. The tests include spirometry (using an instrument that measures the air taken into and out of the lungs), peak flow monitoring (another measure of lung function), chest X-rays, and sometimes blood and allergy tests.

Medications will work only if they are taken according the explicit instructions of your physician, but they may not resolve all symptoms of allergy.

Inhaler Medications

These medications are to be used only while experiencing asthma-related symptoms, and can be used every 4-6 hours until the symptoms resolve. A child or an adult with a history of asthma must have access to these medications at all times. This group includes medications used in the form of various inhalers (Albuterol, Proventil, Ventolin, Xopenex). Inhalers are prescribed medications, so it's important never to use inhalers prescribed to another person. Inhalation medications are delivered to the lungs via different types of inhalers, twisthalers, flexhalers and diskus. Some of them need to be used with a spacer. Please follow the instructions of your inhaler for proper use. The proper use of controller medicine is essential for long-term improvement of allergy.

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