National News

Allergies: You Can Live Without Them

Spring comes around allowing flowers to bloom and people all over the globe start sneezing and coughing up phlegm. Those who suffer from allergies often know exactly when some part of nature has decided to pollenate and will often resort to checking websites or news stations for how bad the allergens in the area are at times.

Why do allergies even exist? Some people may believe that allergies exist to torment them, but that is not the case. Allergies occur because the immune system is reacting to harmless substances in the environment, such as pollen, mold, and animal dander. When a person gets a sniff of pollen, ingests mold, or touches animal dander the immune system will kick into overdrive causing runny noses, watery eyes, uncontrollable sneezing, rashes, hives, and the inexplicable feeling of being ill or tired. The body will begin to produce an antibody called IgE, immunoglobulin E, to bind with the allergen. IgE is also attached to a form of blood cell known as a mast cell, which is often found in the airways and intestines. Mast cells, however, will make these areas more susceptible to allergens. When the allergen comes into contact with the IgE that is attached to a mast cell, that mast cell will begin to produce chemicals. One of these chemicals is Histamine, which is the main culprit to many allergy symptoms.

The severity of allergy symptoms can vary depending on a multitude of factors. Most allergy reactions are classified into three categories. Mild reactions where the individual feels slightly “off,” moderate reactions that occur when the person feels ill as though he or she has a cold, and severe reactions that can be incapacitating to the sufferer. There is, however, a fourth category of allergic reactions, known as anaphylaxis. This happens when someone is exposed to an allergen that causes a whole-body reaction with symptoms including hives, wheezing, tightness in the throat, and tingling in the hands, feet, lips, or scalp. Anaphylaxis is the most severe allergic reaction anyone can have towards a specific allergen and is often life-threatening. Anyone suffering from anaphylaxis requires immediate medical attention and they should be carrying medicine, such as EpiPens, which is also known as epinephrine.

My own allergies could be classified as mild to moderate. Having several different types of allergies means that the range of classification varies from allergy to allergy. The same is true for everyone and symptoms vary from person to person as well. For example, my allergic reactions towards dust and pollen would be considered moderate. However, my allergy of citrus fruit causes only slight discomfort and is classified as mild.

Hay fever, eczema, asthma, allergic rhinitis, and urticaria are all illness that are often caused by an allergic reaction to some aspect of the surrounding environment. I often suffer from hay fever. Also, one out of five Americans suffer from asthma and allergies, which is about 50 million Americans, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. In other words, one out of five people will be sneezing several times and practically crying, due to watery eyes, during class. However, there are ways to fight the allergy beast.

There are over the counter allergy medicines that can be taken to prevent allergy symptoms or to ease them. Allegra, Atrovent nasal spray, Benadryl, Clarinex, Claritin, Claritin-D, Flonase, Mucinex, Nasacort and more are all allergy medicines that can be bought at local stores to help with allergy symptoms. Some allergy medicines work better than others for different people. For me, a combination of the common medicines such as Benadryl, Claritin, and Sudafed often help me get through the day and sleep peacefully through the night. To know for sure if an allergy medicine works, you will have to try them out on your own and compare their effects. Also, some allergy medicines may work better for you depending on the situation. Taking Benadryl before class is probably not the best option since Benadryl is notorious for causing drowsiness. It is also wise to read up on the side-effects of medicines before taking them.

Living with allergies may not always be a problem. Making an appointment with your physician or a local doctor can help determine what exactly you may be allergic to. Your doctor may refer you to a board-certified allergist-immunologist to find out what you are allergic to. Tests will be conducted that may include skin or blood tests to find the precise causes of your allergies. Once these tests are done and the exact allergens are identified, treatment can begin. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, there are two types of treatments for allergies; the two types of treatment are regular medication and immunotherapy.

With the first type of treatment, you may be prescribed decongestants and antihistamines to help control allergy symptoms. There are other medications that work by preventing the release of the chemicals that cause allergic reactions. The second type of treatment is known as allergy immunotherapy. These treatment involves allergy shots which contain the substance that you are allergic to. The doses will start off small and will gradually be increased over time. The shots slowly adjust the immune system to become less sensitive to a specific allergen so that it no longer causes allergic reactions. Getting these tests done and starting either or both of the treatments are not mandatory but can help if you have a lot of allergies. I have never gotten any sort of test done but if I wanted to make my seasonal life easier I probably would at some future time.

I decided hoarding tissues in my pockets and taking over the counter medication is the easiest solution. However, everyone handles allergies in their own way, whether it is through home remedies, with over the counter medications, or allergy treatments. Dealing with allergies is a pastime that most people have no choice but to deal with and eventually become experts in. That does not mean that allergies are any less of a pain to live with and are more often than not annoying.

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