Coping With Allergies: Treatment and Prevention

With between 10-40 percent of the UK’s population suffering from allergies, we address the topic of intolerances and whether they can be overcome

Allergies are developed as a result of our immune systems identifying substances like pollen, pet dander or dust as potentially dangerous—like a virus or pathogen. After identifying a certain substance as dangerous, our immune system responds by producing an allergic reaction, releasing chemicals such as histamine when the body comes into contact with it. This is an attempt to rid the body of the perceived danger. Symptoms of allergic reaction can include; coughing, sneezing, wheezing, itchy rashes, bloodshot eyes, and in more serious cases, seizures and difficulty breathing.

But why do some bodies react to harmless substances in this way?

 

One theory, known as the hygiene hypothesis, states that the ever increasing sanitary nature of our environment has reduced our exposure to everyday germs which suppresses our natural development of the immune system from an early age which increases the general populous’ susceptibility to fight off allergic disease. Whether this theory is accurate or not, the fact remains that a large majority of people suffer from various allergies and the rate is increasing each year.

The treatment for allergies really depends on what you are allergic to and the severity of your condition. Some experts theorise that simply getting used to certain substances by exposing yourself to small doses of it can mean that allergies eventually subside. While this is a viable solution for some allergy sufferers, other more sensitive cases may require an alternative approach like restricting exposure to substances. Consult your doctor before trialing any new allergy management methods at home—they may refer you to an allergist. An allergist is necessary if your condition is interfering with your everyday life, they can prescribe more advanced immunotherapy options such as: allergy shots, higher strength oral tablets and drops.

Treating the symptoms

Antihistamines: are the main medications for allergies and are perfect for mild to medium allergy sufferers. Antihistamines can be used to treat symptoms and can be taken as a preventative before they start.

Steroid medications: are particularly effective in reducing inflammation caused by allergic reactions. They come in various forms: nasal sprays, creams for eczema, tablets for hives and inhalers for asthma.  

Lotions and creams: are the suitable options for treating itchy and raw skin caused by allergies. There are various over-the-counter options that include: emollients to protect from allergens, calamine to reduce itching and steroids to reduce inflammation.

Decongestants: are often used as a short-term solution for blocked noses or stuffy sinuses—they are available as tablets, nasal sprays and capsules. 

Dust allergies

Cover your bedding. Dust mites love warm and dark places, making your pillows and mattresses the perfect environment for them to thrive in. Encasing both of these with zipped, allergen-proof covers can prevent microscopic mites from plaguing you while you sleep.

Switch up carpets. One way to prevent excessive sneezing caused by dust allergies is to change from carpet to hard wood floors.

Pet allergies

Restrict their roaming. Keep your pets away from places you sleep or lay your head—often, keeping them out of the bedroom is best.

Keep them clean. Wash your pet regularly to reduce pet dander and excess hair around the house.

Assign pet-only covers: Have blankets that are reserved solely for pet use and store these away when allergy sufferers are around, this will keep all other surfaces free from shed hair.

Food allergies 

Try a ‘free from’ alternative. The last few years have seen a boom in major supermarkets stocking ‘free from’ alternatives. Those with intolerances to dairy and gluten will find delicious options to suit them.

Undertake a food elimination diet: Discuss trying a food elimination diet with your doctor to distinguish what foods are triggering your reactions; they can devise a plan accordingly.

See also: Food Allergies 

See also: Dealing with Hay fever 

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