Airborne Allergies occur when your immune system reacts to foreign substances such as pollen, dust mite, bee venom etc. These are the most common causes triggering a reaction in most people.

Your immune system produces substances known as antibodies. When you have allergies, your immune system makes antibodies that identify a particular allergen as harmful, even though it isn’t. When you come into contact with the allergen, your immune system’s reaction can inflame your skin, sinuses, airways or digestive system.

SYMPTOMS

Allergy symptoms, which depend on the substance involved, can affect your airways, sinuses & nasal passages, skin and digestive system. Allergic reactions can range from mild to severe. In some severe cases, allergies can trigger a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis. There are different types of allergies which cause various symptoms if you are affected. Here are the few common symptoms that you should know about:

• Hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis, can cause sneezing, itching of the nose, eyes or roof of the mouth, runny or stuffy nose and watery, red or swollen eyes (conjunctivitis).

• A food allergy can cause a tingling sensation in the mouth, hives, swelling of the lips, tongue, face or throat etc.

• An insect sting allergy can cause a large area of swelling (edema) at the sting site, itching or hives all over the body. Cough, chest tightness, wheezing or shortness of breath along with anaphylaxis could be some symptoms.

• A drug allergy can mainly cause hives itchy skin, rash, facial swelling, wheezing, anaphylaxis etc.

• Atopic dermatitis, an allergic skin condition also called eczema, can cause skin to itch, redden flake or peel.

RISK FACTORS

You might be more likely to develop an allergy if you have a family history of asthma or allergies, such as hay fever, hives or eczema. Development of allergies is also common in children.

COMPLICATIONS

Having an allergy increases your risk of certain other medical problems, including:

ANAPHYLAXIS: If you have severe allergies, you’re at increased risk of this serious allergy-induced reaction. Foods, medications and insect stings are the most common triggers of anaphylaxis.

ASTHMA: If you have an allergy, you’re more likely to have asthma — an immune system reaction that affects the airways and breathing. In many cases, asthma is triggered by exposure to an allergen in the environment (allergy-induced asthma).

Sinusitis and infections of ears or lungs: Your risk of getting these conditions is higher if you have hay fever or asthma.

PREVENTION

Preventing allergic reactions depends on the type of allergy you have. General measures include the following:

AVOID KNOWN TRIGGERS: Even if you’re treating your allergy symptoms, try to avoid triggers. If, for instance, you’re allergic to pollen, stay inside with windows and doors closed when pollen is high. If you’re allergic to dust mites, dust and vacuum and wash bedding often.

KEEP A DIARY: When trying to identify what causes or worsens your allergic symptoms, track your activities and what you eat, when symptoms occur and what seems to help. This may help you and your doctor identify triggers.

WEAR A MEDICAL ALERT BRACELET: If you’ve had a severe allergic reaction, a medical alert bracelet (or necklace) lets others know that you have a serious allergy in case you have a reaction and you’re unable to communicate. For dust mite allergy, use dust mite protective mattress and pillow covers.

DIAGNOSIS

SKIN TEST: A doctor or nurse will prick your skin and expose you to small amounts of the proteins found in potential allergens. If you’re allergic, you’ll likely develop a raised bump (hive) at the test location on your skin.

BLOOD TEST: Specific IgE (sIgE) blood testing, commonly called radioallergosorbent test (RAST) or ImmunoCAP testing, measures the amount of allergy-causing antibodies in your bloodstream, known as immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. A blood sample is sent to a medical laboratory, where it can be tested for evidence of sensitivity to possible allergens.

TREATMENT

ALLERGY TREATMENTS INCLUDE:

ALLERGEN AVOIDANCE: Your doctor will help you take steps to identify and avoid your allergy triggers. This is generally the most important step in preventing allergic reactions and reducing symptoms.

MEDICATIONS: Depending on your allergy, medications can help reduce your immune system reaction and ease symptoms. Your doctor might suggest over- the-counter or prescription Anti histamine medication in the form of pills or liquid, Steroid nasal sprays, or eyedrops such as Pataniol.

IMMUNOTHERAPY: For severe allergies or allergies not completely relieved by other treatment, your doctor might recommend allergen immunotherapy. This treatment involves a series of injections of purified allergen extracts, usually given over a period of a few years.

Another form of immunotherapy is a tablet that’s placed under the tongue (sublingual) until it dissolves. Sublingual drugs are used to treat some pollen allergies. For airborne allergies, it is best is to avoid grass, tree pollen and house dust mite.

You must consult your doctor or allergist as need be.

Dr. Pargat Singh Bhurji
MD,FRCP ( C ) Consultant Pediatrician Surrery BC