How to Diagnose and Treat your Allergy Symptoms

Allergies affect a large percentage of both adults and children in the United States, and are considered the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in this country. The symptoms of this condition can lead to loss of productivity and an increased amount of sick time taken in schools and offices. If you suffer from an allergy, you may find that your symptoms can get in the way of your daily life, and cause you to miss out on activities that you normally enjoy doing. The good news is that there are many options in treatment today, and with your doctor's help you can be on the road to more symptom-free days and a higher overall quality of life.

The Process of an Allergic Reaction

Allergies occur when the immune system malfunctions, and recognizes a normally harmless substance as a harmful one. When the body comes in contact with the substance that the immune system has deemed as harmful, the body will produce a large number of immunoglobulin E, or IgE's antibodies. These antibodies will cause the body to release chemicals such as histamine that will result in itching, increased secretions, swelling and tightening of the airways. The symptoms that you feel as a result of this biological process include watery eyes, runny nose, hives, and coughing. In severe reactions the symptoms can go further in producing difficulty breathing and dizziness. If allergic symptoms become severe, it is called anaphylaxis, and while rare it is also life-threatening. Emergency medical care is required in these circumstances.

Types of Allergies

There are many things that a person can have an allergic reaction to. Hay fever is caused by a reaction to pollen, and can be seasonal or year-round depending on exactly what you are allergic to. Another common culprit is dust mites, which live in dust and other fibers of common household objects. Animal dander is another frequent cause of allergy symptoms, as is mold, latex and some types of foods. Most people will have a reaction to one or two allergens, while a few unlucky souls will suffer symptoms from exposure to a number of culprits. You will have a greater likelihood of developing allergies if you have a parent that suffers from them, or if you have another chronic condition like eczema or asthma. You can also develop an allergy if you are exposed to an allergen while you immune system is compromised, such as during a viral infection or while pregnant.

Although allergies are a common complaint, there are a number of treatment plans available for many sufferers. These can include antihistamines, decongestants or nasal sprays that are all taken to relieve the symptoms. You can also consider immunotherapy, or allergy shots, which will essentially "cure" your problems and allow you more symptom-free days with less medication. Talk to your doctor about the best course of action to treat your allergy symptoms.