Understanding and Treating Allergies

Allergies affect more than twenty percent of the adults and children in the United States, which means that millions of people are affected each year. Allergies can affect people at different times of life, and during different seasons, depending on the source of the reaction. There are a number of different culprits that can cause an allergic reaction in people, including pollen, dust mites, mold and foods. If you think that you are suffering from allergies, you should make an appointment with your doctor to find out what you are allergic to and what your best options in treatment plans are.

Allergies are generally inherited, which means that if one or both of your parents suffer, you stand a good chance of having them also. The allergen can vary however, so you cannot assume that because your mother is allergic to dust, you will be also. You may instead develop a reaction to pollen or mold. The genetic link is simply in whether or not you are prone to developing an allergy. Another possible reason for developing a reaction to a particular substance is exposure to that substance when your immune system has been weakened. For example, many people can develop a reaction after a viral infection or during pregnancy.

What is an Allergy?

Allergies occur as a result of your body's immune system reacting incorrectly to some sort of foreign substance. Your immune system will see pollen or mold as a harmful substance to your body and react accordingly. The end result can be sneezing, watery eyes, itching, hives, and even trouble breathing during more severe reactions. For many, the reaction will be mild and require little or no medical intervention. During an extreme allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis, you may initially feel itching which will quickly progress to swelling, pain and vomiting. Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical assistance.

Most allergies can be managed with the help of your doctor, by using antihistamines, decongestants and nasal sprays. There are also lifestyle modifications that you can make to help reduce your exposure to your allergen, such as keeping pets out of the home or maintaining a dust-free environment. If your allergies begin to get in the way of your daily life, your doctor may also recommend immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, to "cure" your allergies and help you to have symptom-free days. The good news with allergies is that there are many options for managing them effectively. If you suspect that you are suffering from some type of reaction to a particular substance, talk to your doctor today about your choices in allergy treatment.