Allergies Allergetic Reactions

Almost 50 million people in the United States suffer from some type of allergy. People may suffer from allergic reactions to a variety of substances, including chemicals, plants, foods and medications. Fortunately, many are able to successfully manage their symptoms and lead healthy, happy lives.

About Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions are abnormal responses by the immune system to harmless substances. When the body identifies a substance as an invader, it calls upon immunoglobulin (IgE) antibodies to help fight off the allergen. The IgE antibodies attach themselves to other blood cells, known as mast cells. During the fight, mast cells become damaged and release several chemicals known as histamine. Because of the release of histamine, people experience a variety of symptoms of allergic reactions.

Symptoms of Allergic Reactions

The symptoms of allergic reactions vary according to the individual, the allergen and the severity of the reaction. Those who are sustaining a mild to moderate reaction may experience:

  • abdominal cramps
  • congestion
  • coughing
  • diarrhea
  • difficulty breathing
  • hives
  • itchiness
  • nausea
  • rash
  • runny nose
  • shock
  • sneezing
  • throat swelling.

Signs of anaphylaxis, or a severe allergic reaction, can be:

  • difficulty breathing
  • dizziness
  • drop in blood pressure
  • hives
  • hoarseness
  • lightheadedness
  • swelling
  • tightness of throat
  • unconsciousness.

Those demonstrating symptoms of anaphylaxis need to seek immediate medical attention. If left untreated, anaphylaxis may cause permanent bodily damage and can even lead to death.

Sources of Allergic Reactions

Some of the most common causes of allergic reactions include medications, foods, chemicals, or airborne particles. As a result, many patients are allergic to:

  • dust mites
  • eggs
  • insect stings
  • latex
  • milk
  • mold
  • peanuts and other nuts
  • penicillin
  • pets
  • pollen
  • seafood and shellfish
  • soy
  • wheat.

Avoiding the allergen can avert many allergic reactions to the above substances. In instances of allergic reactions to airborne allergens, it may be more difficult to limit exposure.

Severity of Allergic Reactions in Individuals

A unique phenomenon with allergies — as opposed to other medical conditions — is that allergic reactions vary according to individuals. Some people may be allergic to shellfish, others to pollen. In addition, some may experience more severe reactions, while others may sustain manageable symptoms.

The reason some allergens are more severe than others is related to several factors. The first reason is genetics. The amount of IgE antibodies present within a person’s body is hereditary. As a result, people who have parents with severe allergies are more likely to suffer from severe allergies as well. This is because their bodies contain more IgE antibodies, which damage more mast cells during allergic reactions, thus releasing more histamine.

Another factor for why some allergens cause more severe reactions than others involves the type of contact the person encountered with the allergen. Allergens that are ingested or injected gain quicker access to the blood system, causing symptoms of allergic reactions to onset more quickly.

These reasons are a few factors that contribute to allergic reactions; however, a variety of other individual factors play a large role as well.

Treating Allergic Reactions

Fortunately, a wide variety of treatment options are available for those who suffer from allergic reactions. Over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines and cortisones often give patients great relief. Others choose to undergo preventative measure, such as allergy shots. In some severe instances, people may carry with them an emergency dose of Epinephrine, which can provide immediate treatment. In any situation, highly skilled allergists are able to identify a person’s allergy and find a successful solution to manage a person’s symptoms.

Resources

Geimeier, W. (2007). All about allergies. Retrieved on March 16, 2009, from the Kids Health Web site: http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/allergies/allergy.html.

Ryan, W. M. (2007). Basic allergy information. Retrieved on March 16, 2009, from the WebMD Web site: http://www.webmd.com/allergies/guide/basics-1.