Did you know 1 in 4 people in the UK are affected by allergies at one point in their lifetime? An allergy occurs when the body’s immune system reacts to a substance as though it is harmful. These substances that cause the body to react in such a way are called allergens. The role of your immune system is to fight harmful pathogens to keep you healthy but when an allergen is detected by your body as harmful it responds by attacking it. Depending on the allergen, your body may experience different symptoms. Allergies are more common in children but adults can get them too.
Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen, also known as allergic rhinitis, it usually occurs when pollen comes into contact with your mouth, nose, eyes and throat. Hay fever is usually experienced between March and September. Symptoms of hay fever include; runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, sneezing, loss of smell, headache, earache etc.
Here are some hacks to ease your hay fever:
- Put Vaseline around your nostrils to trap the pollen
- Vacuum regularly
- Dust with a damp cloth
- Buy a pollen filter
- Over the counter medications – antihistamines can be in the form of tablets or nasal spray
An allergic response to peanuts usually occurs within minutes after exposure. Symptoms include: itchy throat, tingling around the mouth, hives, redness, diarrhoea, stomach cramps, tightening of the throat, shortness of breath etc. Peanut allergies can range in severity for different people. It is important to completely avoid direct or indirect contact of peanuts as foods can be cross-contaminated with peanuts or you may inhale dusts from peanuts in the air.
The most serious type of allergic reaction is anaphylaxis which is a life-threatening reaction. This type of reaction needs immediate treatment such as an EpiPen or a trip to the emergency room. Symptoms of anaphylaxis includes: difficulty in breathing, drop in blood pressure, constriction of airways, loss of consciousness etc.
Egg allergies are the most common amongst children. Many people tend to grow out of their allergies. Symptoms include: skin rashes, nasal congestion, hives, vomiting, digestive problems etc.
Here are some ways to avoid an allergic reaction:
- Be cautious when eating out – if the menu isn’t explicit about what ingredients are in the meal, make sure you ask the chef exactly what was used to make the food.
- Wear an allergy bracelet – if your child is unable to tell caregiver’s or people around them that they have an allergy, purchase an allergy bracelet that will let them know what is going on.
- Read labels carefully – some products may be labelled egg-free but still contain eggs. Foods that contain eggs include: pastas, salad dressing, frosting, marshmallows etc.
A wheat allergy is a reaction to the protein that is found in wheat and can be severe. Wheat allergies are often confused with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity as they have similar digestive symptoms. Whereas, celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity are an immune reaction to gluten, which happens to be a protein also found in wheat. Wheat allergies are usually diagnosed with skin prick testing and the only treatment for a wheat allergy is to avoid wheat in your diet and also in cosmetic products.
The six most commonly reported tree nut allergies are walnut, almond, hazelnut, pecan, cashew and pistachio. Most people who are allergic to one or more tree nut tend not to outgrow this allergy.
Around 30% of individuals that are allergic to peanuts are also allergic to tree nuts! Peanuts are actually not part of the tree nut family as they are considered legumes as they grow underground. Whereas, tree nuts grow on trees. Tree nut allergies range in severity and the most serious allergic reactions can lead to anaphylaxis. It is recommended that all individuals carry epinephrine at all times.
Allergies are very common and most can be easily managed with medication or some lifestyle changes. If you are unsure about having allergies, visit your local GP to get a blood test.
By Pooja Depala