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Alleviating allergies: How to manage the symptoms

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An allergy is the response of the body's immune system to normally harmless substances, such as pollens, foods, and house dust mites. While for most people, these substances (allergens) pose no problem, in someone who is allergic, their immune system identifies them as a ‘threat’ and produces a response. This response is usually inflammatory such as mild to moderate itching and swelling.

While you’re more likely to be allergic to something if allergies run in your family, the environment can also play a part. Here are top-line triggers and symptoms to look out for plus treatment options to consider.

What causes allergies?

There are many different kinds of allergies, and the allergens that trigger them can come from a variety of sources like:

Airborne allergens

  • Pollen
  • Mould
  • Animal hair
  • Dust and dust mites

Contact allergens

  • Latex
  • Insect stings

Food and medicine allergens

Recognising an allergic reaction

The symptoms of an allergic reaction depend on the type and severity of the reaction.

Common symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Watery and/or swollen eyes
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Itching
  • A rash or hives (raised red itchy areas on the skin)
  • Stomach cramps
  • A fast pulse

A food allergy can also cause nausea, diarrhoea and/or vomiting.

In some cases, the reaction can be extreme and lead to anaphylactic shock – a reaction that involves the whole body and results in breathing difficulty, low blood pressure and unconsciousness.

If you or a family member has an allergic reaction with any of the following symptoms, call 111 straight away:

  • Trouble breathing including wheezing
  • Swelling of the lips or tongue 
  • Pale cool damp skin
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion 
  • Loss of consciousness

Treating allergies

The best allergy treatment is to avoid the allergen in the first place, but sometimes that’s not possible. For mild symptoms, your Unichem Pharmacist can recommend treatment options including antihistamines, decongestants or corticosteroid nasal sprays. Here’s how each works:

Antihistamines

These prevent histamine release and can relieve sneezing, itching and help dry up a runny nose. Your Pharmacist can help you choose from liquids, tablets or nasal sprays.

Decongestant nasal sprays and tablets

These unblock the nose and relieve nasal congestion. They should only be used occasionally and never for more than three days at a time.

Corticosteroid nasal sprays

These reduce the inflammation in the lining of the nose and work better when used before symptoms develop. They can be used daily over a longer period of time.

Natural supplement support for allergies

Natural ingredients such as garlic and horseradish help support clear airways and the immune system, while quercetin can support the body’s response to allergens.

If appropriate, your Unichem Pharmacist will refer you to your GP if they think your symptoms are severe.

Christian – Pharmacist, Unichem Summerfields, Queenstown