Nearly 50 million Americans of all races and ages suffer from allergies. Americans spend nearly 10 million dollars a year on the treatment of allergies. This number will no doubt increase as the number of cases of asthma in the US has doubled over the last twenty years.
Allergies are formed when a person comes in contact with an “allergen.” An allergen is an allergy producing substance. The most common types of allergens include pollens, dust, smoke, mites, mold, dander, and certain foods.
Allergies and allergic reactions are due to exaggerated immune responses to foreign substances in sensitive people. When allergens come in contact with the body, it causes the immune system to attack the, other harmless, allergen. The immune system is the body's defense system that protect against foreign substances, particularly infections. The immune system produces antibodies to help destroy the unknown substance. An allergic person produces a specific type of antibody called immunoglobulin E, or IgE.
Allergy symptoms come into three variations: mild, moderate and severe. Mild allergy symptoms include rash, itchy or watery eyes, congestion. Mild allergic reactions do not spread through the body. They are typically dermatological, meaning they only affect areas of skin tissue, in and outside the body. These allergies are the most common and are easily treatable with over the counter drugs.
Moderate allergy reactions can spread through the body. Their symptoms include itchiness and difficulty breathing. Moderate allergies are best controlled with the help of over the counter and prescription medication administrated by a doctor.
Severe allergy symptoms are known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is rare, but life threatening. When Anaphylaxis occurs, the entire body is affected. Allergy symptoms typically start with sudden itching of the eyes or face, but quickly progress to more serious symptoms within minutes. Serious symptoms include varying degrees of boiling that often make breathing and swallowing difficult or impossible, abdominal pain, cramps, vomiting, dirrhea, mental confusion or dizziness, and in most extreme cases, death.
If a person is suffering from anaphylaxis, it is best to call an ambulance immediately. Persons suffering from anaphylaxis should carry an EpiPen in case of emergencies. An EpiPen is an epinephrine injection that can temporarily subdue a severe allergic reaction.
Although anaphylaxis is extremely severe, most allergies are reliably mild and can be completely controlled through the use of medication. There are several forms of over the counter pills and sprays available at any pharmacy, but for more intestinal allergies, prescriptions are available through doctor prescriptions.