Allergic Conditions



The Allergy Kit





About Allergic Conditions



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For allergic conditions, Your definitive quick-reference that includes the facts on: asthma, hay fever, conjunctivitis, eczema, environmental allergy, and many others.

Allergies affect many millions of individuals all over the world and they give rise to some common allergic conditions, from asthma to sinusitis. A person can have an allergy to almost anything, including foods, environmental items, insects, and even one‘s own organs! The allergic reactions people experience can range from a mild annoyance to life-threatening anaphylaxis.

Allergic conditions have in common a process in which the immune system produces IgE antibodies to fight-off allergens. The IgE antibodies attach themselves to mast cells or basophils within the body, including mast cells in the gastrointestinal tract, mucus membranes, or airways. Once the antibody has attached itself to a mast cell or basophil, a cascade of substances are released, and it is these substances which actually result in allergic symptoms like hives, itchiness, swelling, indigestion, nausea and headaches.

There are a variety of allergic conditions that may be a concern for you, including asthma, hay fever, occupational allergies and food allergies. Below you will find brief summaries of several of these conditions.




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Asthma



Asthma is an allergic condition of the lungs, generally occurring in people who have sensitivity to small particles in the air. Pollen is one such irritant that affects people with asthma. If an asthma sufferer is exposed to problem particles, his or her airway walls will swell and the smooth muscle in the walls of the airway will spasm. Next, mucus will be secreted in larger than normal quantities which causes the airways to experience narrowing and a resulting asthma attack

Several symptoms of an asthma attack are felt by the sufferer, including wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. Prescription medications are the traditional treatment, including immediate relief treatments and longer-term preventative treatments.

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Allergic Conjunctivitis



This allergic condition involves the conjunctiva, or the mucus membrane covering the front of the eye and the inner part of the eyelid. There are mast cells within this membrane which carry histamines which can cause an allergy reaction such as swelling, itching, or inflammation. Thus an allergic person who is exposed to an irritant like pollen may soon feel his eyes begin to burn, sting, and become light-sensitive. Thankfully, allergic conjunctivitis, while very uncomfortable, rarely leads to long-term vision problems. This condition is often treated with antihistamines.

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Hay Fever



This allergic condition is a form of rhinitis that is seasonal in nature and caused by an allergy to pollen from grasses, trees or weeds. A prominent cause of hay fever in the United Sates is ragweed. This weeds actively pollinates from late in the summer until temperatures reach freezing. Typical symptoms of hay fever include a runny nose, tendency to sneeze, and itchy eyes. Hay fever often is first diagnosed in the early teen years and will persist for many years, if not a lifetime. Hayfever can be managed with medicine, immunotherapy, or avoidance.



Eczema



Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is an allergic condition which involves very dry, very itchy red patches on the skin, often appearing when children are young infants. It may first appear on a young baby’s cheeks, but later it is more typically seen on the elbows and behind the knees. There seems to be a relationship between eczema and other allergic diseases. For example, up to 75% of children who suffer from eczema will also develop allergic rhinitis or asthma.

Eczema sufferers are particularly plagued by excessive itching, which unfortunately can increase in times of stress or when one is sweaty. This itching may become worse in the night-time than during the day. Food allergies can also cause some instances of eczema, or these allergies may worsen the discomfort. Eczema may be treated with corticosteroids, along with cool baths and emollient creams as a comfort measure.



Hives



Hives are the result of an allergic reaction of the superficial dermis layer of skin, which lies just below the top layer of skin. Hives usually manifest as a raised itchy patch of skin, and often they are reddish in color. When one contracts hives, it can be challenging to determine their exact cause, and often the sufferers of this allergic condition are simply given a treatment to deal with the symptoms, rather than the underlying cause, as finding the cause could require testing that is both extensive and expensive. Antihistamines are one such treatment for treating the symptoms of hives.



Food Allergy



Food allergies are the result of sensitivity to certain foods. The sensitivity may be mild or extreme, and these allergies can cause symptoms like nausea, indigestion, stomach pain, diarrhea, and gastro-intestinal distress. Swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat may be a signal of a life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. A distinction is often drawn between a food allergy and food intolerance. A food allergy is known to cause a response by the immune system, where a intolerance does not actually involve the immune system. Common culprits of food allergies involve milk (casein), eggs, soy, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts.



Anaphylaxis



Anaphylaxis is the terminology used to describe a severe and life-threatening allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis can be fatal if not treated quickly and the cause for an anaphylactic reaction should be determined in order to avoid future severe episodes. The usual culprits associated with life-threatening allergies include certain foods (like peanuts) or insect stings (like bee stings).

If a person suffers an anaphylactic reaction he or she may experience hives, low blood pressure, and angioedema, a similar but more extreme form of swelling than that of hives; this swelling involves a deeper layer of the dermis. Epinephrine injections are generally required to treat anaphylactic reactions. Many people carry an EpiPen in order to protect themselves against this type of allergic reaction.

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Sinusitis



Sinusitis, a very common condition, is what occurs when mucus causes congestion in any of the four pairs of sinus cavities. Blockage of the ostia (sinus openings that drain into the nose) is the most common reason for sinusitis. Often the condition will occur after an individual suffers a respiratory infection, which will be the acute form of sinusitis. Chronic sinusitis on the other hand often goes hand-in-hand with allergic conditions such as environmental allergies or asthma. Antihistamines may be recommended as a treatment for chronic sinusitis. Those individuals who are interested in natural treatments might want to try Quercetin, a natural anti-histamine that is sold in health food stores.



Drug Allergy



Drug allergies are not as common as food or environmental allergies, but they can be severe or even life threatening in some situations. Sometimes the allergy to a medication is readily apparent after initial contact, while other times a drug allergy will become apparent after a prolonged period of use involving multiple exposures. This means that often times drug allergies are not realized until an individual has reached early adulthood. Itching and hives are the most commonly experienced symptoms of drug allergy.

Since drug allergies can result in severe or life-threatening reactions, physicians may choose not to perform standard allergy skin testing. Conversely, doctors may perform a careful review of a patient’s medical history, reviewing the use of drugs such as various antibiotics in order to look for patterns that indicate an allergy.



Eosinophilic Disease



This allergic condition is characterized by having unusually high amounts of eosinophils, which are special white blood cells, at various sites in the digestive system. There are several forms of eosinophilic disease which can be subdivided into organ-specific types, such as they type associated with the stomach.

Eosinophils protect the body from parasitic infections, and elevated levels of eosinophils help to diagnose allergies. A very high level of eosinophils may indicate the presence of an immune system disease more serious than an allergy though and should be carefully investigated by a physician.



Environmental Allergy



The term environmental allergy refers to allergies that occur as a result of sensitivity to substances in the physical environment, both outdoor and indoor. As you might imagine, this covers a broad range of allergies, since our environment can include: our homes, our jobs, school, the outdoors and its four seasons, and the various pollutants we are increasingly exposed to.

It can be difficult to identify environmental allergens since there are potentially so many substances that can produce allergy symptoms. To make matters more complicated, many of the symptoms, such as post nasal drip, congestion, and runny nose, can occur from food related allergies as well as environmental.

When allergy symptoms are present, parents and doctors will frequently try to identify the offending allergen by eliminating the most commonly occurring allergens first, such as dust mites and pet dander. Doctors may also recommend a blood allergy test to identify common allergens such as: mold, pollen, roach excrement, milk, eggs, shellfish, wheat, nuts, and soy.



Occupational Allergy



While it may not be commonly recognized, indoor air pollution is often much worse than outdoor pollution. The air inside a building is often stale and re-circulated and in many workplaces there are a number of contaminants to be concerned about. These contaminants can include lead, mold, chemicals, or even simply excessive dust spores. Workers may suffer occupational allergies due to being in a constrained environment for excessive periods of time with no opportunity for fresh air, or workers may not have the opportunity to avoid a particular allergen.

Employees cannot usually change a work environment to suit their needs (for example changing the carpets or changing the type of ventilation system) and they are often simply forced to deal with the effects of such allergens on their health.



Bee Sting Allergy



Bee and other insect stings can cause hypersensitivity reactions in many people, with swelling and redness taking place. Some individuals will experience more extensive reactions, with the swelling spreading over an entire limb or in a worst case scenario, causing a generalized allergic reaction. The biggest concern with bee sting allergies is when an individual has an anaphylactic reaction to the bee sting. In this event, the availability of an EpiPen can be critical to survival.