Welcome to the Allergies Health Channel by eMedTV. Allergies are a specific reaction of the body's immune system to a normally harmless substance, such as pollen, food, or medicines. Allergies can either be seasonal (occurring at specific times of the year) or perennial (occurring year-round). Research scientists do not know for sure why one person develops allergies and another person does not, although it is believed that allergies may be inherited.
How Do I Know I Have Allergies?
In someone with allergies, histamine and other chemicals are released when allergens land on the lining inside the nose, triggering a common allergic reaction. This is evidenced by nasal congestion, sneezing, and/or itching.
Allergy symptoms tend to vary from person to person, depending on what is causing the allergies and the severity of the allergic reaction. Symptoms of allergies can range from mild ones (itching, sneezing, or eczema) to more severe ones (hives, wheezing, and shortness of breath).
How Are Allergies Diagnosed?
An allergy diagnosis is easily made through simple tests, such as a skin prick test or a blood test. Skin prick tests are used to determine whether a person has IgE (immunoglobulin E) antibodies in the skin that react to a specific allergen. Although a skin prick test is the most sensitive and least costly way to diagnose allergies, people with widespread skin conditions like eczema should not be tested using this method. In these cases, a blood test is more appropriate.
Do I Need Allergy Shots?
Allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy, are the only treatment available that can potentially provide long-term relief from symptoms caused by allergies. Allergy shots contain extracts from the substances people are allergic to, and can treat allergies to things like pollen, insects, and pets. Typically, after a series of allergy shots, a person's allergy symptoms are either reduced or disappear completely.
Can I Prevent Allergies?
Methods for preventing allergies depend, in large part, on the specific substance a person is allergic to. For example, if you have allergies to certain foods, those foods can be avoided altogether. However, with more challenging types of allergies (such as allergies to pollen, molds, and dust mites), avoiding these triggers completely may be difficult. There are numerous strategies and measures a person can take to prevent allergies. Avoiding your triggers and keeping surfaces clean and free of allergens are the two most common approaches recommended.
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