Allergies and Allergy Treatments


Aerius (Clarinex in the USA) Manages Allergy Symptoms – click for more info

Allergies are a disorder of the immune system and affect nearly 20% of North Americans. Allergic reactions occur to environmental substances (referred to as allergens), which are normally harmless. These reactions tend to develop and occur rapidly upon exposure to the allergen.

What Causes Allergies?

Allergies are a form of hypersensitivity, which are characterized by excessive activation of proteins known as IgE antibodies. IgE antibodies are designed to protect your body from unwanted invaders that could result in sickness or infections. In an allergic situation, your immune system identifies harmless allergens as something that is harmful, even though it isn’t. This triggers the release of histamines and other substances that cause allergy symptoms.

Almost anything can trigger an allergic reaction, which involves a complex set of reactions:
1. The body’s immune system has a patrol of white blood cells, which produce antibodies. The job of the antibodies is to detect and destroy substances that cause disease and sickness.
2. In allergic reactions, the antibody involved is called immunoglobulin E, or IgE. The white blood cells produce an antibody specific to that antigen (allergen). This is called “sensitization.”
3. This antibody promotes production and release of chemicals and hormones called “mediators.” Histamine is one well-known mediator.
4. Mediators have effects on local tissue and organs in addition to activating more white blood cell defenders. It is these effects that cause the symptoms of the reaction.
5. If the release of the mediators is sudden or extensive, the allergic reaction may also be sudden and severe.
6. Allergic reactions tend to be unique to the individual. For example, your body may have learned to be allergic to poison ivy from repeated exposure.
7. Most people are aware of their particular allergy triggers and reactions.

Common allergens include certain foods, vaccines and medications, latex rubber, aspirin, shellfish, dust, pollen, mold, animal dander, and poison ivy are famous allergens. Insect stings from bees and wasps, certain medicines such as penicillin and some foods such as peanuts are known for causing dramatic reactions that can be serious and involve the whole body.  Minor injuries, hot or cold temperatures, exercise, or even emotions may be triggers. Allergies can play a major role in conditions such as asthma. In some people, severe allergies to environmental or dietary allergens or to medication may result in life-threatening anaphylactic reactions and potentially death.
Allergies and the tendency to have allergic reactions run in some families. You may have allergies even if they do not run in your family. Individuals who have one allergic trigger tend to have other triggers as well.

Allergy Symptoms

Allergies can cause symptoms that result in an inflammatory response, involving your skin, sinuses and airways. In most cases symptoms are minor but irritating. However, in some situations, the allergic response can be severe, triggering life-threatening reactions known as anaphylaxis ( a reaction that involves difficulty breathing and a drop in blood pressure – it can lead to death in severe cases).
Here are some of the more common symptoms associated with allergies:
1. Hay fever (allergic rhinitis):
• Congestion
• Itchy, runny nose
• Itchy, watery or swollen eyes (conjunctivitis)

2. Atopic dermatitis (also called eczema):
• Itchy skin
• Red skin
• Flaking or peeling skin

3. Food allergies:
• Tingling mouth
• Swelling of the lips, tongue, face or throat
• Hives
• Anaphylaxis

4. Insect stings:
• Swelling (edema) at the sting site
• Itching or hives all over your body
• Cough, chest tightness, wheezing or shortness of breath
• Anaphylaxis

5. Drug allergies:
• Hives
• Itchy skin
• Rash
• Facial swelling
• Wheezing
• Anaphylaxis

6. Anaphylaxis. This severe reaction can be triggered by allergies to foods and insect stings, leading to a life-threatening medical emergency, that can cause you to go into shock. Signs and symptoms include:
• Loss of consciousness
• Lightheadedness
• Severe shortness of breath
• A rapid, weak pulse
• Skin rash
• Nausea and vomiting
• Swelling airways, which can block breathing

Types of Allergies 

Allergic reactions include:
1. Asthma
2. Lung conditions that affect breathing, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
3. Nasal polyps
4. Frequent infections of the nasal sinuses, ears, or respiratory tract
5. Sensitive skin
6. Eczema
7. Hay fever is a  mild allergy that is highly prevalent in the human population and which can cause symptoms such as allergic conjunctivitis, itchiness, and runny nose.

Allergy Tests
There are a range of tests available to diagnose allergic conditions. These include testing the skin for responses to known allergens or analyzing the blood for the presence and levels of allergen-specific IgE.

Allergy Treatments

Allergies can’t be cured, but a number of treatments are available to help manage the symptoms. Treatments for allergies include avoidance of the allergen, the use of antihistamines, steroids or other oral medications, immunotherapy to desensitize the response to allergen, and targeted therapy.

Popular antihistamine brands including Allegra, Clarinex (Aerius) are available without a prescription and can help to relieve symptoms of allergies – hayfever in particular – without the drowsiness associated with some of the older medicines.