How do to identify an allergy, and what do you do to treat it? Here’s a guide to most common allergies like a rash or the sniffles.
What is an allergic reaction?
As per Dr. Chew Huck Chin, who is a respiratory medicine specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, allergy reaction is an overactive response by the body’s immune system when the body becomes exposed to an allergen. Allergens could be as harmless as dust, or it could be certain foods or drugs. These particles are considered harmful to your body and result in causing the symptoms of a particular allergy.
How to detect an allergic reaction?
Some of the most shared symptoms of an allergy include hives or itchy rashes, as per Dr. Chew. Some other symptoms include nasal congestion, itchy and watery eyes, abdominal pain and vomiting.
Usually, all allergies have similar symptoms. The only way to distinguish between the symptoms of different allergies is to a blood or prick test.
Anaphylaxis is a most severe form of an allergic reaction with symptoms like as difficulty swallowing, repetitive coughing, a weak pulse shortness of breath, hives and throat tightness.
Other symptoms consist of skin swelling combined accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea. Untreated anaphylaxis can lead to death or shock.
Food is a common trigger for allergic reactions. Each time you eat a triggered food, there’s some allergic reaction that takes place in your body. Some common foods that trigger an allergy are:
Peanut or tree nut
Earlier, peanut allergy was considered to be lifelong, but as per new studies, about 20% of people sufferers eventually outgrow this allergy. Moreover, up to 40% of individuals who are allergic to peanuts are allergic to at least one tree nut.
Symptoms of peanut and tree nut allergies are similar. They include:
- An itching sensation around the mouth and throat area
- Runny nose
An allergy to egg occurs when the body’s immune system becomes sensitised to the yolks or protein in egg whites. As per research, about 70% of children who have this allergy, outgrow it by age 16. Allergy symptoms include:
- Stomach pain
- Shortness of breath
Foods like corn, corn pollen exposure or even corn-derived products can trigger this form of allergy. This allergy is comparatively tricky to diagnose. The reason being, the symptoms are highly similar to that of a grass pollen and other seeds and grain allergy. The best way to determine corn allergy is by eliminating different types of food for a period. Corn allergy symptoms include:
- Stomach cramps, vomiting or diarrhea
- Stuffy or a runny nose
These are the most common form of food allergy. The two main kinds of these fishes include crustaceans and molluscs. Out of the two, more people are allergic to molluscs than crustaceans. However, it is advisable to avoid all shellfish altogether. Allergy symptoms include:
- Indigestion, stomach cramps or diarrhea
- Dizziness or confusion
- Repetitive cough
- Trouble in swallowing or swelling of the tongue or lips
- Weak pulse
- Pale or blue colouring of the skin
Fish and shellfish come from different families of foods. If you are allergic to one family, it does not necessarily mean you have to avoid the other family of fish too. The most common fish types which people are allergic to are salmon, tuna, and halibut. Allergy symptoms include:
- Stomach cramps, indigestion, vomiting
You need to stay away from dairy products if you have a milk allergy, or you are lactose intolerance. However, both of these conditions are not related. An over-reactive immune system towards dairy products causes milk allergy while the inability to digest the proteins in milk due to an enzyme deficiency makes you lactose intolerant.
Apparently, some people with milk allergy can tolerate products containing dairy after the products are nicely heated. Still, it is best to avoid dairy products altogether, which is done by substituting it with soy or rice milk. Milk allergy symptoms that occur immediately are:
- Wheezing cough
Delayed allergic symptoms include:
- Upset stomach
- Abdominal cramps
- Mucus in the nose or lungs
- Diarrhea or loose stool or that may contain blood or mucus
There are a few drugs that also trigger an allergic reaction. Some of these are:
- Aspirin, ibuprofen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Chemotherapy drugs
- Medications for autoimmune diseases
Drug allergy symptoms start to appear within an hour of consuming the drug. However, some reactions even take as long as days or even weeks later. Standard drug allergy symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Nausea and abdominal cramps
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Breathlessness and wheezing
Steps to follow when an allergic reaction occurs
Here are a few steps advised by Dr. Chew which are to be followed when an allergic reaction takes:
- Call an ambulance immediately
- Find out if the patient has an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen). If yes, then you need to administer the epinephrine dose by pressing the auto-injector against their thigh
- Tell the patient lie still on their back
- Cover the patient with a blanket and loosen up their clothing and
- Don’t give the patient anything to drink. Turn the patient on their side if there’s vomiting or bleeding from the mouth to prevent choking.
- Begin the CPR if there are absolutely no signs of breathing, coughing or movement. Also, do uninterrupted chest presses until paramedics arrive. The ideal number is about 100 every minute.
It is always crucial to seek emergency treatment even there is an improvement seen in the symptoms. The first thing to do when the symptoms occur is to dead to the accident and emergency (A&E) department. Apparently, symptoms may recur even after improving. The diagnoses are made by the doctor to determine whether the reaction is because of a particular food or drug. The diagnoses efficiently enable you to avoid future incidents from happening.
The inspiration for this article has been taken from Health Plus Section, a source of credible health information by Mount Elizabeth Hospitals, Singapore.