- Allergy involves an exaggerated response of the immune system
- The immune system is the body’s organized defence mechanism against foreign invaders, particularly infections.
- Allergens are substances that are foreign to the body and can cause an allergic reaction.
- IgE is the allergy antibody.
- Allergies can develop at any age.
- Your risk of developing allergies is related to your parents’ allergy history.
How do you get allergies?
Scientists deduce that both environment and genes have something to do with how you cope with allergens. Normally, your immune system fights germs that it considers as foreign substances. In most allergic reactions, however, it is responding to a false alarm and giving you an exaggerated reaction.
Who is at risk?
Allergies can develop at any age. They commonly occur in children but in some instances you may have your first allergy as an adult. Asthma may persist in adults while nasal allergies tend to decline in old age. For some time, it has been known that allergic conditions tend to pass on within families. Your risk of developing allergies is related to your parent’s history of allergies.
Allergic Rhinitis (hay fever)
Allergic rhinitis is the most common of the allergic diseases and refers to seasonal nasal symptoms that are due to pollens from plants and trees. Year round or perennial allergic rhinitis is usually due to indoor allergens, such as dust mites, animal dander or molds. It can also be caused by pollens. Symptoms result from the inflammation of the tissues that line the inside of the nose after allergens are inhaled. Adjacent areas, such as the ears, sinuses, and throat can also be involved. The most common symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Stuffy nose
- Nasal itching (rubbing)
- Itchy ears and throat
- Post nasal drip (throat clearing)
Signs and tests
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask you questions about your symptoms. Your history of symptoms is important in diagnosing allergic rhinitis, especially whether the symptoms vary according to time of day or the season and exposure to pets or other allergens.
Allergy testing may reveal the specific substances that trigger your symptoms. Skin testing is the most common method of allergy testing. A complete blood count (CBC), specifically the eosinophil white blood cell count, may also help reveal allergies.
The best treatment is to avoid substances that cause your allergic symptoms. It may be impossible to completely avoid all your triggers, but you can often take steps to reduce exposure.
There are many different medications available to treat allergic rhinitis. Which one your doctor prescribes depends on the type and severity of your symptoms, your age, whether you have other medical conditions (such as asthma) etc.
Most symptoms of allergic rhinitis can be treated. More severe cases require allergy shots.
Some people (particularly children) may outgrow an allergy as the immune system becomes less responsive to the allergen. However, generally a substance that once causes an allergy in a person will continue to do so lifelong.