An allergy is an exaggerated reaction by the immune system of body in response to the contact with certain foreign substances. The immune system is triggered when the body senses a foreign substance. It sensitizes the harmless substance (an allergen) to be harmful agents such as bacteria and toxins and over reacts to counter the effect. This hypersensitivity reaction is called allergy.
The parts of the body that are prone to react to allergies are the eyes, nose, lungs, skin, and stomach. Depending on the severity the symptoms of allergy can be mild, moderate and severe.
Allergic Rhinitis: It is the reaction of the nose to the allergens such as pollens, dust mites, animal dander etc. The symptoms include:
- Stuffy nose
- Nasal itching or rubbing
- Itchy ears and throat
- Repeated throat clearing
Asthma: Asthma is a breathing problem that results from the inflammation and spasm of the lung’s air passages. The inflammation is the response to the allergens in the air. Common symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
Allergic Eyes: Allergic eyes or allergic conjunctivitis is caused when eyes come into the contact of allergens. The reaction is inflammation of the tissue layers that cover the surface of the eyeball and the under surface of the eyelid. The common symptoms include:
- Redness under the lids and of the eye overall
- Swelling of the membranes
- Watery, itchy eyes
Allergic Eczema: Allergic eczema or atopic dermatitis is an allergic rash that is caused by skin contact with an allergen and it features the following symptoms:
- Itching, redness, and or dryness of the skin
- Rash on the face
- Rash around the eyes, in the elbow creases, and behind the knees
- Rash on the trunk of the body
Hives: Hives are skin reactions that appear as itchy swellings. They can occur on any part of the body. It is body’s reaction to food or medication. Typical hive symptoms are:
- Raised red welts
- Intense itching
Allergic Shock: Allergic shock, also called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock is the severe allergic reaction of the body. It can be life-threatening and can affect a number of organs at the same time. This occurs when the allergen is eaten (for example, foods) or injected (for example, a bee sting). Some or all of the following symptoms may occur:
- Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting
- Hives or reddish discoloration of the skin
- Nasal congestion
- Swelling of the throat
- Shortness of breath, wheezing
- Low blood pressure or shock
Statistics of Common Allergy Types and Symptoms:
- Nearly 11 percent of the population in the United States or 35.9 million people suffer from allergic rhinitis.
- About 10 million people or 3 percent of the population suffer from allergic asthma.
- 9 percent of the population have complains of atopic eczema. The prevalence of this condition increased from 3 to 10 percent within a span of 30 years (1960-1990).
- Food allergy causes a rapidly developing severe allergic reaction called the anaphylaxis. According to an estimate, every year 150 people loose their lives due to this allergy.
- 6 percent children belonging to the age group of 3 – 4 years are affected with a particular type of food allergy.
- Peanut, walnut, cashew and almond allergies are responsible for affecting nearly three million Americans which is 1.1% of the entire population of this country.
- An insect venom causes 40 deaths per year. It spreads infections which are either localized or systematic in nature.
- 15 percent adults die due to localized infections caused by this insect and 3 percent die because of the spread of this allergic infection in the entire body.
- Allergies caused by various drugs take 400 lives every year in the United States.
Whom to Consult When Diagnosed with Allergy Symptoms ?
- In the United States, doctors certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology (ABAI) can be consulted when an individual believes that the above mentioned allergy symptoms are present in the body.
- These specialists are called allergists-immunologists. They are trained specially to treat and manage all allergic diseases.
- It requires nine long years of medical training to become an allergist-immunologist. The course involves successful completion of an accredited educational program, an evaluation process, a demonstration of skills and experience to deal with patients of allergy and immunology.
- These doctors also need to pass an exam conducted by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) or the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP), after they complete their medical degree and 3 years of internal training.
- Those who pursue specialization further require to complete 2 years of study, known as fellowship under a training program.
- These specialists are then listed as ABAI-certified after their fellowship and can completely be trusted for consultation and treatment.