What is an Allergy?
An allergy is a reaction by the body to a particular substance that might be otherwise harmless. Allergies are extremely common, and are thought to affect more than 1 in 4 people in the UK at some point in their lives. Allergies are particularly common in children; some go away as they grow up, while others persist through life. Adults may develop allergies to substances they weren’t previously affected by.
Allergies can be a nuisance affecting everyday activity, but most are mild in nature and can be kept under control, though severe reactions may occur occasionally.
Many people are allergic to substances in the air and general environment.Breathing allergies can be caused by a variety of factors, such as immune system disorders, certain medications or infections. One could have an allergic reaction to something in the air and general environment, such as plant pollen, house dust mites, moulds and pet dander.
Common breathing allergies include;
Also called hay fever, it affects the nose and eyes
Affects the lungs
Allergic reactions usually happen quickly within a few minutes of being exposed to an allergen, instantly showing symptoms, or it might take a few hours in some cases.
Symptoms vary depending on what you’re allergic to and how you come into contact with it, they commonly include;- Sneezing and an itchy, runny or blocked nose (allergic rhinitis)
- Irritable airways, coughing, tightness in the chest,
- Red, itchy, watery eyes (conjunctivitis)
- Congested sinuses and headaches
- Disturbed sleep
- Wheezing and coughing or shortness of breath
These symptoms are usually worse indoors, in bed, early morning and or during winters.
Most reactions are mild, but occasionally a severe reaction called anaphylaxis can occur, sending you into an anaphylactic shock, causing swelling of the throat and mouth, extreme difficulty in breathing, confusion, blue skin or lips or loss of consciousness.
Allergies come about when the body’s immune system reacts to a particular substance as though it is harmful. It is not entirely clear why this occurs, however most people with allergies have a family history of it or suffer from closely related conditions such as asthma or eczema.
It usually takes many days to become sensitive towards any substance after your first contact with it, but once you have developed an allergy, a reaction can occur within a few minutes.
Common causes for breathing allergies;
- House dust mites
- Animal fur
- Mould spores
To diagnose a breathing allergy your GP will ask about your symptoms and if anything seems to trigger them, your family and medical history. If you experience severe allergies or it is not clear what is causing them, you may be recommended for testing.
Physical exam Your GP may examine the inside of your nose to check for nasal polyps, which are fleshy swellings that grow from the lining of your nose or your sinuses. They can be caused by the inflammation that occurs.
Skin prick testing This is the most common allergy test. A drop of liquid is put on your forearm, containing a substance you might be allergic to. The skin under the drop is gently pricked with the needle, if you are allergic, an itchy red bump will appear in 15 minutes. The process is entirely painless and safe.
Blood test Blood tests check for the presence of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody in your blood; your immune system produces this antibody in response to a suspected allergen.
The most effective way of managing allergies is by avoiding the allergen whenever possible, however it depends on what you are allergic to.
We offer various treatment medications to help control symptoms;
Antihistamines These are prescribed as the main medicines for allergies. It can be taken when you notice the symptoms of a reaction, or before being exposed to an allergen to stop a reaction from occurring. It is available as tablets, capsules, creams, liquids, eye drops and nasal sprays, depending on which part of your body is affected.
Decongestants These are tablets, capsules, nasal sprays or liquids that can be used as a short-term treatment for a blocked nose. However they can worsen symptoms with prolonged usage.