Many a time, when we indulge in cleaning or dusting activities, we tend to sneeze or experience an irritation in the nose, or may be itching in the hair. The common term coined for such a condition is allergy. However, what exactly is an allergy? Well, our body's immune system is designed in such a way, that it combats any foreign substance, which is not in sync with the functioning of our body. Hence, when doing sundry jobs (like cleaning), one may inhale dust particles or spores of the mold, which may incite an immediate response from the immune system. This response causes the allergic reaction, indicating the anomaly. For instance, certain gases can also cause severe allergic reactions, like, watery eyes, running nose, and skin rash. The substances that cause allergic reactions are called allergens (which could be gases, pollen, mold spores, animal dander etc.). In fact, the human body could also be allergic to certain foods (like nuts and certain fruits).
Options for Treating Allergies
Allergy treatment always starts with limited or no exposure to allergens. Let's discuss each option in detail:
Certain foods cause allergies in children. Cow's milk, hen's eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, and soybeans are tangible allergens for children. Whereas some adults are more allergic to mollusks, crustaceans, fish, and nuts. In children, the allergy is usually symptomatic, leading to severe allergic reactions, like anaphylaxis (an allergic reaction that affects the entire body). Certain symptoms, include, hives, skin rash, swollen lips and eyelids, wheezing, shortness of breath, and vomiting. If these symptoms are detected post meals, it is a strong case of an allergic reaction. Hence, prevention is better than cure in these cases of allergies. Precisely, avoid consuming foods, you are allergic to. This is also because, testing for allergies is a contentious aspect of food allergy department and does not suffice by doing a skin test or a blood test. And a very important point, which should not be missed here is that, keep your home clean and get rid of black mold (if any) that is breeding in the wet and damp areas of your home (like the basement, attic, bathroom, and kitchen closets). And yes, this is the best allergy treatment option for children, as treating them more often with medicines is not a good practice because it hampers their developing immune system.
Medications for Allergies
Medicines like antihistamines are used for treating allergic symptoms. This medication is available in the form of pills, eye drops, and nasal sprays. Some medicines that are available over the counter, are Claritin, Benadryl, Tavist, Zyrtec, and Dimetane. Other prescribed drugs, include, Clarinex, Xyzal, Allegra, Astelin (nasal spray), Emadine and Livostin (both are eye drops). Now, when the body responds to allergic reactions, the immune system releases a chemical substance known as histamine, which causes the blood vessels to enlarge. This is why, the symptoms of allergic reactions (like redness of the skin: eczema, itching, and wheezing) become evident. Antihistamines palliate these symptoms with almost immediate effect. However, be careful with these medications, as an overdose of antihistamines will lead to certain side effects (like drowsiness). Along with antihistamines, decongestants are also prescribed. However, excessive consumption of decongestants can lead to high blood pressure and insomnia. Even steroids (corticosteroids) are prescribed for reducing the inflammation in the nasal tract and blood vessels. They are also available in oral form as nasal sprays (Beconase, Nasonex, Veramyst, and Rhinocort) and eye drops (Alrex and Dexamethasone). For people suffering from asthma, bronchodilators (inhaled drugs that are used to relax the muscles around the nasal tract) are prescribed.
Immunotherapy is a medical term used for subduing an intensified immune response. The agents that are used in this therapy are known as immunomodulators, which are a combination of synthetic, natural, and recombinant cytokines. This therapy provides allergy shots that help the immune system to build tolerance towards allergens. A 3-5 year regimen of this therapy is believed to yield long-term benefits for people, who are extremely allergic and sensitive to certain allergens, which cannot be avoided in normal life. This therapy is tailored by an allergist and is most recommended for people suffering from allergic rhinitis or asthma.
Apart from the above stated allergy treatment options, here are some of the important key points to be kept in mind when being exposed to allergens:
- When doing household chores, like cleaning or gardening, make sure that you tie a handkerchief across your nose and mouth, or use a mask to prevent any allergens (like mold/dust/pollen) from entering your nasal tract.
- People who are extremely allergic to food, must first run a thorough check on food labels to find out, if the food contains allergens.
- During heavy pollination seasons and on windy days, keep the doors and windows closed. Also, it is advised not to have indoor plants in such seasons.
- Replace feathery pillows and woolen blankets with cotton or synthetic alternatives.
- Make sure your pet is free off fleas and mildew. Many a time, they become carriers of certain harmful allergens.
- Use air filters and dehumidifiers to keep the atmosphere inside the house, cool and dry. Warm and moist atmosphere invites mold and mildew to breed.
For an instant relief from allergies, one can opt for home remedies, like a potion made of honey and ginger, or a hot green tea. One cannot avoid allergens all the time. So, it is a good practice to develop a healthy immune system by following the above guidelines.