Spring is in the air! Along with pollen which for a lot of us triggers all those annoying allergies. Pollen is just one trigger to an allergic reaction. There are different types of allergies and different triggers for different people. But what exactly is an allergy? It is an immune defence response to a foreign substance that is typically not harmful to your body. The foreign substance is referred to as an allergen. Depending on the allergen your body’s immune system will attack it. The response may be inflammation, sneezing or other symptoms. Your immune system attacks what it thinks could put your body in danger.
Many of us experience seasonal allergies which are a commonly known as hay fever. The more scientific name is allergic rhinitis. This affects around 18% of Australian children and adults. They generally appear around certain times of the year, usually spring. As mentioned earlier pollen is a common trigger for allergies. During spring there is an increased amount of pollens from wind-pollinated plants, such as trees, grasses, and weeds. Seasonal allergies are less common during winter; however, it is also possible to experience this type of allergy all year round.
Allergies are common and usually not harmful, but there are severe allergies that can be life-threatening. Severe allergies can cause anaphylaxis which can occur within seconds or minutes when exposed to an allergen. For example, peanuts or bee stings. If this ever happens seek immediate medical assistance. Most people who are aware of their severe allergy will generally carry an EpiPen in case of emergency. This will counter the allergic reaction until medical help arrives.
Food allergies trigger a different response in the body. A food allergy will trigger swelling, hives, nausea, fatigue, unlike seasonal allergies which commonly causes sneezing and watery eyes. A lot of us do not realise we have a food allergy until we consume it and discover we may be affected by the allergen. If you have a serious reaction after a meal and you are not sure why it is best to seek professional medical assistance immediately. In recent years there has been an increase of nearly double hospitalisation numbers related to the exposure to a food allergen which presented in a severe allergic reaction. The general public have been putting off seeking advice about potentially severe allergies which has contributed to this increase in allergy related hospitalisation.
A response in your skin may also be a sign or symptom of an allergy. It may also be a direct result of exposure to an allergen. For example, if you have a food that you are allergic to you may experience a tingling in your mouth and throat and develop a rash. Direct skin contact with an allergen is referred to as contact dermatitis. This could happen if you touch something you are allergic to like a plant or cleaning product. A rash isn’t the only type of reaction to skin allergy. Your skin can react with eczema, hives, itching, swollen eyes and more.
Many allergies can be treated with medications like antihistamines to control the symptoms. More often than not the medication can be purchased over-the-counter. Depending on the severity on the allergy a doctor’s prescription may be necessary.