What an allergy is? Allergy is the pathological situation in which the organism “falsely” reacts against harmless environmental substances. It originates from the greek words “allos” = other and “ergon”=action. Meaning that the body reacts-action with a different way than normal!
But why an organism react like this?
Normally the immune system acts like a “scanner” by checking all the substances that comes in contact with. It is important to recognize when the substances are dangerous or not. Although some persons have a high tendency to overreact in certain stimuli(allergens-antigens), and that has a genetic background!(see below the risk factors!)
What atopy is? Atopy refers only to the genetic predisposition to develop allergic diseases!
Food Allergies: Food allergy is a medical condition in which exposure to a food-allergen triggers an immune response.These symptoms vary from mild to severe (vomiting, cramps, cough, dyspnea, dizziness , even anaphylactic shock!) Most common food allergens include the following : -> eggs, milk, nuts, peanuts, wheat, soy, shellfish, fish. The previous food allergens are responsible for 90% of all food allergies but that doesn’t mean you are not allergic in another food product! But there are more than 170 foods responsible for food allergies in general!
Antigens VS Allergens Antigens-> Are mostly protein substances, usually harmless, capable of triggering a response in the immune system and results in an allergic reaction. Allergens-> Are specific antigens which may lead to an allergic reaction! The major allergens are categorized :
Inhaled allergens (plants, pollen, etc.)
Drug allergens(aspirin, penicillin, antibiotics, etc.)
Other allergens( working conditions, bees, etc.)
Stages of Allergies:
Risk Factors and Epidemiology 1.Family history is super important! In a family with an allergic parent, the child has 25-30% possibilities to develop an allergy.In case both parents are affected, the child has almost 60-70% possibilities to be allergic!
2.If you have already an allergy you are at high risk to develop another type as well!( for example, a person with allergic rhinitis can have another allergy in the future.)
3.Children are at high risk in general! Moreover if a child has repeated respiratory infections are more likely to develop.
4.Environmental causes (polluted environment) and working conditions play an important role! Occupational allergies referred to persons that work as wood workers, bakery/food service workers, chemical factory workers, farm workers, florists, hairdressers, lab workers(wearing latex products), miners, printers, etc.
Symptomatology How an allergy is manifested, as
allergic rhinitis : runny, itchy nose
skin allergy : eczema (atopic dermatitis) dry, irritating skin, hives(also called urticaria), contact dermatitis (when you come in contact with the allergen like soaps, laundry ingredients, etc.)
eye allergy (allergic conjuctivitis ): redness, itchiness, swollen, burning eyes, etc.
allergic asthma :wheezing, chest discomfort, excess coughing
even anaphylaxis : is an extreme life-threatening allergic reaction that causes severe dyspnea, skin rush, loss of consciousness, low BP and tachycardia! (medical emergency situation!)
Diagnosis If you are having allergic symptoms you should set an appointment with your allergiologist ! The physician will take a medical history, a physical examination and after that he will perform some specific skin tests. Tests include:
1.Prick allergic test, (skin test) the doctor places a tiny amount of allergens in your skin and if you are allergic to them a swelling will appear to the site of the prick!
2.Intradermal test, (skin test) the doctor will inject intradermal a tiny amount of the allergens right above your skin and a swelling will appear again as a result of the allergy.
3.Allergic blood tests, it is used in specific situations only because the skin tests are proven to be more sensitive! In case a person has already a serious skin condition or a very sensitive skin made the doctor will choose this type of test
Therapy & treatment The purpose of allergic medication is not to cure the disease, because it’s a chronic condition, but to relieve the symptoms and ensure a good life quality. 1.Allergic medication include:
antihistamines, as a pill or even eye drops, nasal sprays etc.
decongestants, relieve the nasal congestion by decreasing the swollen nose and reliving the itchy and sneezing sensation.
2. Immunotherapy ,is the use of allergy shots once-twice monthly by your doctor.This seems to help your body get used to the allergens and relive your symptoms!
Prophylaxis The most important is to know your allergies and what causes them, the allergens in order to avoid them! Also a person that has severe allergies can wear a medical alert bracelet with all his allergies written on it!
Food that “fight” allergies!
1.Pineapple; Due to its powerful enzyme, bromelain it plays an important role in the immune system and helps in occasional allergies! (Be aware if you are allergic to pineapples!)There is also bromelain supplements if you don’t like pineapples! 2.Berries; They contain anthocyanines, which are a class of phytochemicals that provide their colors(blue, red, purple). Anthocyanines are antioxidant compounds that reduce allergy flare-ups! 3.Apples;They have a compound called quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that helps control seasonal-allergies.
Other foods are, honey (protect against pollen allergies), turmeric(curcumin), spirulina(reduces allergic reactions due to Omega3 fatty acids),etc.
About Author: Dr. Chrysoula Valaroutsou is a Greek medical doctor graduated from UOC (english division Constanta,Romania). She is passionate about medicine and always eager to learn more. She has lots of love and loyalty towards serving mankind.
References; www.allergy.org , www.acai.org , www.socratic.org , www.mayoclinic.com , www.piktochart.com , www.allergyuk.org , www.foodallergy.org www.worldallergy.com www.istockphoto.com