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Allergies

An allergy is a hypersensitivity disorder of the immune system, whereby the body over reacts to an allergen (usually safe environmental substances, ranging from food to common medicines, dust and pollen and many more) and causes an inflammatory response in the body of the affected individual.

Allergic responses vary and can range from mildly discomforting allergy symptoms to life-threatening anaphylactic reactions in the most extreme cases.

Causes

There are thousands of allergens that can trigger allergies, but some of the most common include:

  • Airborne allergens: dust and pollen.
  • Animal dander: material shed from animal skin such as skin cells. Similar to human dandruff.
  • Food allergens: shell-fish, dairy products, nuts and/or seeds and gluten, eggs and fish.
  • Medications: aspirin and penicillin.
  • Insect stings: wasps and bees.
  • Plants: grass and stinging nettles.
  • Substances: Latex.

Symptoms

  • Skin rashes
  • Hives
  • Red itchy eyes
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Sneezing
  • Asthma attacks
  • Abdominal pain and vomiting
  • Anaphylaxis

Prevention Tips

Avoid exposure

  • Avoid exposure to allergens that you know you react to. This is easier for food and medicine allergies.  Read all food and medicine labels thoroughly to avoid ingredients that cause an allergic reaction.

Dust proof your home

  • For allergies caused by dust and pollen, the best way to help reduce exposure to allergens is to thoroughly clean the house by vacuuming soft surfaces (such as carpets, upholstered furniture and pillows) and dust hard surfaces with a damp cloth.
  • Wipe surfaces with a few drops of Dettol Antiseptic liquid in water. This will kill 99.9% of germs.

Medication & Anthistamines

  • Medications such as antihistamines can reduce and minimise the effect of allergies and are particularly helpful for airborne allergens (such as hay fever) as they are all around us in the environment.  Decongestants and nasal sprays can handle some of the common symptoms caused by airborne/respiratory allergies.
  • Severe anaphylactic allergic reactions are potentially life-threatening and are often caused by certain foods, medicines, and insect stings. During an attack, adrenaline is commonly administered to treat the affected person.

Myths and Truths

Q. If I am allergic to something, will my children be?

Allergies can be inherited from parents. However, increases in allergic reactions cannot be explained solely by genetic factors and scientists are looking at environmental factors such as allergen levels and environmental pollution to better understand the root causes of allergic responses.

Q. If I have one allergy, am I more prone to other allergies?

Not necessarily. Common allergies can vary greatly from person to person.  One person may only be allergic to one allergen whilst another may be allergic to many.  Hay fever is a common allergy and whilst one person may be allergic to many different types of pollen, another may only have an allergic reaction from one type of pollen and indeed not all reactions and intolerances in the human body are caused by allergies.