Allergies

An allergy is a hypersensitivity disorder of the immune system. Allergic reactions occur when a person's immune system reacts to normally harmless substances in the environment. A substance that causes a reaction is called an allergen. These reactions are acquired, predictable, and rapid. Allergy is one of four forms of hypersensitivity and is formally called type I (or immediate) hypersensitivity. Allergic reactions are distinctive because of excessive activation of certain white blood cells called mast cells and basophils by a type of antibody called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). This reaction results in an inflammatory response which can range from uncomfortable to dangerous.

Mild allergies like hay fever are very common in the human population and cause symptoms such as red eyes, itchiness, and runny nose, eczema, hives, hay fever, or an asthma attack. Allergies can play a major role in conditions such as asthma. In some people, severe allergies to environmental or dietary allergens or to medication may result in life-threatening reactions called anaphylaxis. Food allergies, and reactions to the venom of stinging insects such as wasps and bees are often associated with these severe reactions.

A variety of tests exist to diagnose allergic conditions. These include placing possible allergens on the skin and looking for a reaction such as swelling. Blood tests can also be done to look for an allergen-specific IgE.

Allergies are extremely common and affect more than 20 percent of adults and children in the United States. According to the Allergy Report from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness. It usually develops during childhood or early adulthood. Most allergies are inherited and people are more likely to have a tendency to be allergic if there is a family history of allergies or asthma.

Sometimes, people with allergies may experience a severe reaction known as anaphylaxis. The signs of anaphylaxis may start with severe itching of the eyes or face and develop into more serious symptoms such as swelling of the lips, tongue and throat, abdominal pain, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, hives, and angiodema (hives in the throat). This type of reaction usually occurs within minutes after been exposed to the triggering allergen (such as a peanut). It is a rare, life-threatening emergency and medical attention is required immediately.

What Causes Allergies?

Allergies occur when a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks the allergen as an invader and produces immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to combat these substances. These antibodies then cause certain cells in the body to release chemicals such as histamine into the bloodstream.

These chemicals affect your eyes, nose, throat, lungs, skin or gastrointestinal tract and produces allergy symptoms such as sneezing, itchy eyes and a runny nose. Every time that you are exposed to that same allergen, an allergic reaction will be triggered.

Help for Allergies

For the treatment of allergies to be effective, the individual has to be aware of the allergen or substance that is causing the allergy. There are various medications such as topical and oral antihistamines, corticosteroids, nasal congestants and mastocyte stabilizers that help reduce the symptoms of allergies.

People who experience severe allergy attacks often require a quick shot of epinephrine, a type of medication used to counteract an anaphylactic reaction. When these medications fail to achieve the desired results, immunotherapy or allergy desensitization may be used.

Certain herbal and homeopathic remedies have been found to be beneficial in the treatment and prevention of allergies. These remedies are not only much safer to use than the traditional antihistamine drugs but also gentler for the body. Herbs such as Urtica urens and Plantago lanceolata (also known as plantain) contain effective anti-inflammatory and astringent properties and have a long history of treating inflammation, allergies and respiratory complaints.

Quercitin is a highly effective herb that contains antioxidants and helps to boost the immune system and improve circulation while Euphrasia officinalis (Eyebright) maintains eye health and good vision. In addition, homeopathic ingredients such as Allium cepa and Ars. Iod helps to control allergy symptoms such as sneezing, wheezing chest, inflammation in the eyes and irritability.
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