Allergies or Allergic Reactions


An allergic reaction occurs when the body’s immune system overreacts to harmless substances, such as certain fragrances, medications, dust, or pollen. Allergies can arise on the skin, in the blood vessels, lungs, nose, and other organs of the body. Allergies don’t necessarily appear the first time the body’s exposed to the particular substance. Allergies can vary from slight to severe. 


Most slight allergic reactions can be treated easily at home but severe allergies can be life-threatening and need to be taken care of immediately. Such reactions can be recognized by the following symptoms: swelling and reddening of the skin along with hives, nausea, diarrhea, coughing, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the soles of the feet, palms, eyelids, ears, tongue, lips, and many times shock. 


As stated above, allergies can be caused by several different things. The different types of allergies are listed below. However the substance that triggers the allergic reaction is called an antigen, or allergen. Allergens are what cause the body to sneeze, have a runny nose, etc. 


There are several different types of allergies: seasonal, perennial, chronic, respiratory, skin allergies, allergies to food, animals, artificial jewelry, metal, cosmetics, certain fragrances, certain foods, etc. 


To determine what allergen the allergic reaction is to, two types of tests can be done: a skin test and a blood test. The blood test called RAST, Radioallergosorbent, is used to evaluate the level of blood of immunoglobulin, an antibody that can create reactions to specific allergens. RAST can be done along with or instead of the skin test. The skin test however, is faster, more reliable, and a little inexpensive compared to the blood test. 

There are three different types of skin tests that can be performed. One type of skin test is a skin patch test, which detects contact dermatitis, a skin allergy that causes the skin to be red and irritated if allergic to a particular substance. For this type of skin test, a drop of allergen solution is dropped on a pad and the pad is placed on the skin where it must stay for 48 hours. More than one pad can be attached to the skin to determine which allergen is actually causing the reaction. If the reaction is positive, meaning if the allergen causes the skin to be red and itchy, that means that allergen or substance is the one that needs to be avoided in the future in order to prevent allergies. 
Another type of skin test is a skin prick test. For this test, a drop allergen solution is injected into the first layer of the skin to determine whether or not it creates a response. 
If with the skin prick test, the suspected allergen does not produce a response, a test is done where the solution is injected a little deeper into the skin. This test is called the intradermal test. 


Treatment for allergies varies depending on the severity of the allergic reaction. For mild to moderate allergic reactions, treatment is usually done at home. Allergy medicines can be used and more importantly the substance, once determined what it is, needs to be avoided. For severe cases, on the other hand, a doctor needs to be seen immediately. 

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