Allergies are an exaggerated immune reaction to normally harmless substances known as allergens. When a susceptible person is first exposed to an allergen, an immune response is activated. Later re-exposure may result in the release of substances, including histamine, triggering a range of reactions.
Allergies vary in intensity and can take many forms including atopic dermatitis (eczema), asthma, and allergic rhinitis.
Allergies are influenced by genetic predisposition. If one or both parents suffer from allergies, their children are more likely to develop allergies.
There are two types of allergic rhinitis:
- Seasonal (acute): occurs at specific times of the year, is a reaction to airborne allergens (e.g., ragweed, tree and grass pollen).
- Perennial (chronic): occurs year-round, usually a reaction to indoor allergens (e.g., dust mites, pet dander, mould).
Allergy sufferers may experience one or several of the following symptoms:
To help the doctor make a proper diagnosis, providing basic information such as symptoms, time of day or season, and substances believed to be responsible, is helpful. Painless skin tests may also be ordered.
There is a vast array of treatments available. Generally speaking, starting treatment before exposure to the allergen is more effective than starting when symptoms are already present. Many allergy remedies are available over-the-counter. Speak to your pharmacist to see which product is best for you.
Using a saline solution to irrigate the nasal passages may help improve symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
Another option is allergy desensitization. This involves the administration of small amounts of allergy-triggering substances to build tolerance, reducing the intensity of symptoms upon re-exposure.
The best prevention is to avoid contact with allergens. Since this is not always possible, try to limit exposure. To reduce symptoms:
For allergies caused by dust and dust mites:
During pollen season:
For more information:
Allergy / Asthma Information Association