Allergy is a suffering that results from the body being hypersensitive to foodstuff, an inhaled substance or one applied over the skin. In other words, when the body is exposed to certain substances, it becomes sensitive and antibodies (protective protein groups) are formed against the offending substance or antigen.
On subsequent exposure, antibodies in the body (combine with this antigen and the resultant reaction causes these problems.
Such allergies could also manifest in mild forms such as sneezing, frequent colds, dry cough, mild itching with few eruptions and rashes on the skin. Severe attack of asthma or urticarial can be more troublesome. Anaphylaxis is a fatal form of allergic state.
At times, allergies are hereditary and result into diseases such as bronchial asthma, frequent cold among others run in families. Sometimes it can be due to external causes such as worm infestations. In this case migratory larvae of worms lodged in intestine tend to produce allergy.
An individual may have only one manifestation of allergy, like recurrent sneezing although some may experience multiple manifestations. These can be recurrent cold, cough, asthma or skin rash related to change of season or exposure to dust. Repeated cold, cough or skin troubles make people susceptible to secondary infections and consequently get sicker. Also these recurrent health conditions and related problems are likely to affect their work.
Allergic disorders can occur at any age in both men and women. Sometimes people develop allergies towards sunlight. When exposed to the sun blisters or rashes start forming. The common allergy causing substances in the environments are; house dust, pollen and spores, droppings of insects and pests.
Most people are allergic to smoke, exhaust fumes from vehicles, pesticides and petroleum products. Some women have allergy towards cosmetics. Metal and plastic jewelry is also implicated in allergy.Toilet products, soaps, lotions, room and car fresheners among other cause allergy in many people. Drugs particularly pain killers and antibiotics can result into allergy in sensitive people.
Certain chemicals used as preservatives, flavoring agents or additives in food cause allergies. Others develop allergic reactions to naturally occurring food substances. Protein rich foods like beans, groundnuts, milk and milk products are the common causative substances.
A sickness is diagnosed to be allergic because of its repetitive nature, history of similar or related problems in the family and demonstration of high eosinophil ( type of white blood cells signifying allergy)counts in the blood or sputum. Skin tests are a battery of tests which can help to identify the substance/substances causing allergy. In this the potential allergy producing substance is injected below the skin and the reaction is watched after 24 to 48 hours. However such tests are expensive, tricky and cumbersome.
Even after diagnosis, these conditions are incurable. Anti allergic medicines provide only symptomatic relief. Corticosteroids are used to suppress allergic reactions but in long term have adverse effects, which can make the person sicker. Desensitization is a process where small amounts of allergy producing substance are given regularly so that body gets familiar to it and reaction to it is stopped. But again it is expensive, cumbersome and equally tricky.
An individual should learn to live with allergy. He can tell by observation as the substances causing the allergy. This applies to substances applied on body or those eaten. They can be very well avoided to prevent these allergic problems. In situations involving exposure to dust, fumes, it is advisable to cover the nose. Overall, individuals need to use natural substances in place of chemicals, as chances of allergy are more with chemicals.
Allergy though troublesome can be managed to keep oneself comfortable. The most important thing to know and avoid the causes.
Dr Rachna Pande is specialist internal medicine, Butaro Hospital