In many cases, allergy symptoms are difficult to differentiate from the symptoms of other disorders and illnesses, such as a cold, a deformity of the nose, or a food intolerance. For this reason, many doctors suggest that allergies be properly diagnosed by a board-certified allergist (a medical doctors who treats the allergies) to avoid the self-administration of inappropriate medications or other remedies. Also many allergies sufferers can benefit from today's wide range of available treatments, such as new prescription antihistamines that don't cause drowsiness, nasal corticostereoids, and allergy injections that can provide immunity to a specific allergen (an allergen is the name for any substance, such as pollen, that cause an allergic reaction).
Allergens, the substances that give rise to all allergies, are minute particles of matter, found in the environment or in food, which the body regards as alien and potentially harmful. It responds to their threat with an armoury antibodies released into bloodstream or tissues. If you don't go for doctor, you may be missing out on a treatment that may be of great help to you.
ALLERGIES OR INTOLERANCE?
Allergic reactions to food can affect almost any part of the body, causing eczema, asthma, urticaria (Hives) and other health problems. Anyone allergic to peanuts may, for example, swiftly develop swelling of the tongue or throat a severe asthma attack.
In some acute case, nibbling only tiny piece of peanut or eating a biscuit which incorporates peanut oil may even be fatal. The victims of these extreme allergies, or anaphylaxes, have an abnormal extreme reaction to a particular antigen. This can usually be countered with immediate administration of adrenaline by injection. Avoiding the culprit food is the only way to prevent such
Where there is an adverse reaction to food, but test for allergy are negative, the phrase food 'intolerance', rather than allergy, is used to describe the condition. Although immune system may be involved, it is not a major factor in causing the symptoms of reactions to particular foods.
Food intolerance is a highly controversial subject. In some cases, the cause of an intolerance remains a mystery, although it is known that allergic antibodies are not responsible. In some instances, it is the result of an identifiable problem. For example, people with lactose intolerance lack the ability to produce an enzyme called lactase which is needed to digest milk properly; and people with glutten intolerance suffer from impaired nutrition absorption because glutten damages the lining of their small intestine.
The skin and mucous membranes, or lining of the mouth, nose, intestines and some other parts of body are able to produce a chemical called histamine. One of it functions is to stimulate the production of gastric juices after meal. It also enlarge the capillaries (tiny blood vessels) to increase the blood flow. When food allergens enter the body or come into contact with the skin, the body reacts by releasing large amounts of histamine and other chemicals. It is the 'histamine expulsion' that create most of the symptoms of the allergic reaction. These may include itchy watering eyes, sneezing, wheezing, the appearance of a rash
and diarrhea. In mild cases the tongue or mouth may tingle after eating a allergens contained food.
FOR FURTHER READING ABOUT ALLERGIES CLICK THE WEB SITES BELOW
THE FOOD ALLERGY AND ANAPHYLAXIS NETWORK
AMERICAN ACADEMY OF ALLERGY AND IMMUNOLOGY
If your allergies are causing you to cough, wheeze, and trouble
breathing, you should see an allergist, says Abba I. Terr, M.D., a clinical professor of
medicine and director of the Allergy Clinic at Stanford University Medical Center in
California. "You may have allergic asthma, which really has to be supervised by a
doctor." he says. People with allergic asthma, which sometimes mistaken for
bronchitis, must often be prescribed inhaler and other medications. Trying self-treat
may be dangerous, Terr says.
Is It Food Allergy?
Do you feel congested after you eat dairy product? Does red meat make you feel sluggish? Does sugar give you a headache? If you answered ' yes` to any of these questions, you probably don't have a food allergy. "There's a big difference between what the public perceives as a food allergy and what is really a food allergy," says Anthony Montanaro, M.D. "The distinction is important, since a real food allergy can kill you and a food intolerance can't."
If you are truly allergic to a food, the reaction will be almost immediate, occurring from within a few minutes to two hours after you eat it, according to Abba I. Terr, M.D. The most common symptoms, he says, are hives, diffuse swelling around the eyes and mouth, or abdominal cramps. A less common symptoms is difficulty in breathing. In severe cases, extremely low blood pressure, dizziness, or loss of
consciousness may result. In these instances, a call for ambulance or other medical emergency medical assistance is warranted.
Bust The Dust
The following tips from Edward J. O'Connell, M.D., can help you rid your bedroom of dust mites -- microscopic insects that live in dusty, humid environments. The feces and corps of the mites are thought to be the irritating components in dust. Allergists believe that since we spend most of our time at home in the bedroom, that's the most important place to allergy-proof.
Encase pillows and mattresses. Invest in airtight, plastic or vinyl cases or special covers that are impermeable to allergens for your pillows and mattresses (except for waterbeds). Pillows and mattresses contain fibrous material that is an ideal environment for dust-mite growth. These cases are usually available at your local department store or through mail-order companies. You can also contact the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America for more information on where to purchase cases and covers.
Wash your bedding. Down, kapok, and feather comforters and pillows are out for people with allergies. The feathers have a tendency to leak and can wreak havoc with your respiratory tract Comforters and sheets should be washed every seven to ten days in as hot water as they'll tolerate Wash your mattress pads and synthetic blankets every two weeks.
Clean once a week Putting off cleaning for longer than this may allow an excessive amount of dust to collect, O'Connell says. However; since cleaning raises dust, it's
best not to clean more than once a week If necessary, you can spot dust with a damp cloth more often, he says.
Avoid orerstuff furniture. "If the bedroom's decor lends itself to it, add more wood and vinyl furniture and avoid overstuffed furniture," O'Connell says. Since carpeting makes an excellent dust-mite lair, opt instead for bare floors or ask your doctor about a prescription product for killing dust mites in carpets.
Choose washable curtains. If possible, invest in curtains that can be washed, since their fabric is often a place where dust mites hide.
Vacuum the venetians. The slats of venetian blinds are notorious dust collectors. If you can't replace your venetian blinds with washable curtains, at least run the vacuum lightly over them or dust them well during your thorough weekly cleaning.
Don't use the bedroom as storage space. Stored items tend to collect dust and have no place in an allergy-proof bedroom. If the bedroom is the only storage space you have, wrap items tightly in plastic garbage bags.
Clean out your air conditioner and heating ducts. Every month or 54 clean out the vents on your heating and air-conditioning units. or have someone dean them for you. These ducts are breeding grounds for mold, dust mites, and bacteria. If you let suck nasties collect; they'll be blown into the room each time you turn on your appliance.
Choosing And Using An Over-the-Counter Antihistamine
If you've got your doctor's OK to use them, over-the-counter antihistamines can be an economical way to relieve your allergy misery. However; many people misuse these drugs, believing them to be an on-the-spot fix for whenever they feel itchy-eyed or sneezy.
The problem with antihistamines is, most people wait until they're miserable, then take one and don't find they work," says Miles M. Weinberger; M.D., director of the Pediatric Allergy and Pulmonary Division at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. "If you have classical ragweed hay fever; you'll get the maximum benefit from antihistamines if you start taking them a week or two before the allergy season begins." (When the season begins depends on where you live).
As for what type of antihistamine to use, Weinberger recommends chlorpheniramine maleate, which is found in many over-the-counter preparations. Chlorpheniramine maleate is one of the oldest, safest allergy drugs with a proven track record, he says. It can take care of symptoms such as sneezing; itchy, runny nose; and itchy eyes. (If you also have nasal stuffiness, says Weinberger; you might try a combination product that contains chlorpheniramine and pseudoephedrine, a nasal decongestant). He suggests starting with a dose of perhaps one-fourth of what the package recommends, then slowly building up to 24 milligrams per day (12 milligrams in the morning and 12 milligrams in the evening), providing you can maintain that dosage without drowsiness. Since drowsiness tends to go away in a week or two, Weinberger recommends starting with
evening doses, then adding a morning dose as you begin to tolerate the medication. (Be sure to avoid operating a motor vehicle or heavy machinery if the medication makes you drowsy.) 'Approximately 75 percent of the people with pollen symptoms will get quite adequate relief with a 24 milligram dosage," he says. Edward J. O'Connell, M.D., agrees that antihistamines work best when they are used as preventive medicine.
For people with pet allergies who know they will be exposed to someone else's cat or dog, he recommends taking antihistamines beginning 10 to 14 days in advance.
TRY A WARM WASHCLOTH.
If sinus passages feel congested and painful, a washcloth soaked in warm water may make things flow a little easier,
according to O'Connell. Place the washcloth over the nose and upper-cheek area and relax for a few minutes, he suggests.
USE SALINE SOLUTION
Irrigating the nose with the saline solution may help soothe upper-respiratory allergies by removing irritants that become lodged in the nose, causing inflammation, according to Anthony Montanaro, M.D., associate professor of medicine in the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland. "The solution may also remove some of the inflammatory cells themselves," he adds.
WASH YOUR HAIR
If you've spent long hours outdoors during the pollen season, wash your hair after come inside to remove pollen, suggests Clifton T. Furukawa, M.D., clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle and past chairman of the Professional Education Council for the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology. The sticky stuff tend to collect on the hair, making it more likely to fall into your eyes.
TAKE A SHOWER
If you wake up in the middle of the night with coughing, sneezing allergy attack, a hot shower may wash off any pollen residues you've collected on your body throughout the day, says Furukawa. The warm water will also relax you and help you go back to sleep, he adds.
On windy day in pollen season, a pair of sunglasses may help shield your eyes from airborne allergens, according to
O'Connell. For extra protection, try a pair of sunglasses with side shields or even a pair of goggles.
BEWARE OF THE AIR.
"Air pollution may augment allergies and may actually induce people to have allergies," Montanaro says. He recommends staying outside as little as possible on smoggy days or wearing a surgical mask, especially if you exercise outside. "The mask won't remove everything, but it will help," he adds.
MAKE YOUR HOUSE A NONSMOKING ZONE.
"Don't allow smoking in your house or apartment," O'Connell says. Tobacco smoke is a notorious irritant, either causing or aggravating respiratory allergies.
MAKE THE WINDOWS SHUT.
Closed windows will keep pollen out of the house. For pollen sufferers, during the pollen season, there is no such thing fresh air, air purifiers may help eliminate indoor pollen, but they tend to stir up dust.
FILTER YOUR VACUUM.
"It is very important to not recycle the allergy factors back into your home as you clean," says Furukawa. "For example, you're not doing much good if your vacuum cleaner allows small particles of dust to be blown back into the air as you vacuum." He recommends putting a filter on the exhaust port of your vacuum, if your machine is the canister type (uprights don't usually have an exhaust port). If dust really bothers you and you've got the money, you can invest in an industrial-strength vacuuming system, Furukawa says. Some allergists recommend a brand called Nilfisk, he adds, which has an excellent filtering system and retails for about $500. To find out where you can purchase filters or special vacuums, talk to your allergist or write to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Department CO, 1125 15th Street NW; Suite 502, Washington, D.C., 20005.
DUST WITH A DAMP CLOTH.
Dusting at least once a week is important-but if done improperly, it may aggravate respiratory allergies, O'Connell says. He recommends avoiding the use of feather dusters, which tend to spread dust around, and opting instead to contain the dust with a damp cloth. Dusting sprays may give off odors that can worsen allergies, he adds.
DON'T DUST AT ALL.
If dusting aggravates your allergies, don't do it. Instead, ask a spouse or family member to do the dirty work, or hire a housekeeper; if possible, O'Connell recommends.
"Dust mites (microscopic insects that are usually the allergy culprits in dust) grow very well in humid areas," O'Connell says. He recommends investing in a dehumidifier or using the air conditioner, which works equally well.A dehumidifier can also help prevent mold, another allergen, from growing. When cooking or showering, take advantage of the exhaust fan-another way to help keep humidity to a minimum.
THINK BEFORE YOU BURN.
Although it is common to burn household and construction refuse, this may not be such a wise idea, says Furukawa. "Wood that is treated with heavy metals or other chemical-laden materials will irritate everybody, but the person who is allergic or asthmatic will have proportionately more difficulty," he says. "Also, pay attention to what you are throwing in the fireplace." Of
course, your best bet is to stay away from the fireplace when it's in use.
CUT THROUGH THE SMOKE.
Many people with respiratory allergies find that wood smoke poses a particular problem, Furukawa says. With wood stoves,
the biggest problem is "choking down" the stove, or decreasing the amount of oxygen in order to cool down the fire, he explains. Choking down throws irritating toxins into the air, which will be breathed in by you and your neighbors.
LEAVE THE LAWN MOVING TO SOMEONE ELSE.
During pollen season, a grass-allergic person is better off letting someone else-anyone else-mow the lawn, Montanaro says. "Find out when the pollination season in your area is," he advises. "Here in the Northwest, I tell people not to mow between May and the Fourth of July."
WASH YOUR PET.
A little-known trick for cat or dog owners who are allergic to fur: Bathe your pet frequently. "There is strong evidence that simply bathing the animal in warm water substantially reduces the amount of allergen on the animal's fur," Furukawa says. 'Animals secrete substances from their sweat glands and their saliva-it is water soluble and you can rinse it off." If you're a cat
owner and can't imagine bathing your beloved feline for fear of being scratched near to death, take heart: Furukawa says that in an informal survey that he conducted, he discovered that oneA dehumidifier can also help prevent mold, another allergen, from growing. When cooking or showering, take advantage of the exhaust fan-another way to help keep humidity to a minimum.
MAKE SURE YOUR FINAL RINSE REALLY RINSE.
Chemicals in detergents and other laundry products can cause skin irritation in many people, O'Connell says. "There really are no mild detergents," he explains. "It s important that the final rinse cycle on your machine thoroughly rinses the detergent from your clothes."
When planning a vacation or business trip, call ahead to find a room that will be easier on your allergies. Ask for a room that's not on the lower level, because a room on the lower level may have been flooded in the past and may still be a haven for mold growth. Shop around for a hotel or motel that doesn't allow pets, so you won't be subject to the leftover dander of the last traveler's dog or cat. If possible, bring your own vinyl- or plastic-encased pillow.