Medical science defines allergic attacks as the body’s reaction to different irritants. These allergy attacks are caused by allergens, which are basically harmless substances found in the environment; however, the immune systems of allergic individuals react to them as if they are dangerous. Some common examples of allergens include insect stings, mold, dust mites, animal dander and pollen.
Recently obtained statistics suggest that as much as 55 percent of the US population have tested positive to at least one allergen (http://www.webmd.com/allergies/allergy-statistics).
This makes being aware of the risk factors, causes, symptoms, and management techniques of the disease extremely important. Read on to know more about allergy attacks and ways of preventing them.
Risk factors and causes of allergy related attacks?
Knowing the causes and risk factors of allergic attacks is extremely important if you want to prevent such medical disorders.
You might be at a higher risk of suffering from an allergy attack if one or more of the following are true: If other people in your family have a history of allergies (these may include common allergic reactions, fever, eczema, or hives) or asthma, your chances of experiencing the conditions are pretty high. Also if you are an infant or child, you are more likely to develop allergies than an adult. It has been found that a large number of children with allergies outgrow the conditions when they become older.
If you happen to already allergic to one allergen, your chances of suffering from allergic attacks due to other allergens are pretty high. The same is true for people with asthma (similarly, people with allergies have higher risk of having asthma).
You would get an allergy attack when an otherwise harmless substance would be mistaken for a perilous invader by your immune system. This would force your immune system to produce antibodies which always stay alert particularly for that substance (allergen). A subsequent exposure to that allergen would trigger those antibodies to release certain immune system chemicals like histamine. Histamine is known to be the actual cause of different allergy symptoms. Some of the most common causes of allergies include:
- Food items such as shellfish, milk, peanuts, , eggs, tree nuts, soy, fish, wheat etc.
- Medications like penicillin and various antibiotics that have penicillin as their active ingredient
- Airborne allergens such as molds, dust mites, animal dander, and pollen
- Insect bites/ stings like wasp and bee stings
- Latex material
What are the symptoms of allergic attacks?
Knowing the symptoms of allergy attacks might help you to diagnose the problem early and prevent the condition from getting worse.
Symptoms of allergy attacks tend to vary depending on the type of allergen triggering the problem. They can affect your nasal passages, airways, sinuses, digestive system, and skin. The intensity of allergy symptoms might range between mild and severe. Some patients might develop a potentially life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis. Read on to know about the most common allergy attack symptoms.
If you have allergic rhinitis or hay fever, you will experience symptoms like sneezing, stuffy and runny nose, red, swollen or watery eyes (a condition referred to as conjunctivitis), itchiness in the eyes, nose, or the roof of your mouth, etc.
Food allergies might make you suffer from a tingling sensation in the mouth, hives, swelling of throat, face, tongue, or lips and anaphylaxis (discussed later in the article)
Common symptoms of drug allergy include hives, facial swelling, rash, itchy skin, wheezing, and anaphylaxis
Symptoms of atopic dermatitis or eczema include flaking or peeling of skin, incessant itching, and reddening of skin
At times allergic attacks result in a severe condition called anaphylaxis. It’s basically a medical emergency (often caused the patient to attain a state of shock) and might result in the death of the patient if not treated at the right time. Common signs of anaphylaxis include:
- Severe breathing difficulty
- Drastic drop in the blood pressure levels
- Loss of consciousness
- Severe rash Vomiting and nausea
- A weak, rapid pulse
Early diagnosis and treatment of allergy attacks can prevent you from becoming a victim of anaphylaxis. If you or any of your near and dear ones experience any of the above symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Treatment and prevention of allergic attacks
The easiest way of preventing allergy attacks and reducing symptoms is by avoiding the substances you are allergic to. Your doctor would be helping you in identifying and avoiding specific allergy triggers.
Depending on the kind of allergy you have, the doctor might also prescribe certain medications. These may include liquids and pills, eye-drops, as well as nasal sprays. The drugs that are used most frequently for fighting allergy symptoms are antihistamines.
Antihistamines are agents capable of blocking the release of histamine from your histamine-1 receptors. This class of drugs is capable of managing some of the most common symptoms of allergy effectively; these include watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, itchiness, inflammation, edema, etc. These drugs are also used for treating colds, insect bites/stings, hay fever, and hives.
Antihistamines might further be categorized into two types, sedating antihistamines and non-sedating antihistamines.
If you have severe allergy related attacks or most other treatments fail to offer you relief from your allergy symptoms, you might need to undergo immunotherapy. Immunotherapy would require the doctor to inject purified allergen extracts into your body at regular intervals. Usually, this treatment continues for several years.
Immunotherapy might also involve consumption of sublingual tablets (tablets that get placed under the patient’s tongue). This form of immunotherapy is primarily used for treating certain pollen allergies.
Severe allergic reactions are often managed with a shot of emergency epinephrine. If you are at risk of getting severe allergic attacks, your doctor might ask you to carry an epinephrine shot with you wherever you go.