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:
Dust and dust mites
Food and medicine allergens
Recognizing an allergic reaction
The symptoms of an allergic reaction depend on the type and severity of the reaction.
Common symptoms include:
Watery and/or swollen eyes
Stuffy or runny nose
A rash or hives (raised red itchy areas on the skin)
A fast pulse
A food allergy can also cause nausea, diarrhea 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
Loss of consciousness
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:
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.