Dealing with allergies
It is possible to develop an allergy to almost anything; this could be a smell, food, medication or reactions to dander found on animals. An allergy can range from nothing more than an annoying itch to the more serious of going into shock after developing a severe reaction. Allergies are usually divided into different categories that include:
Eczema and urticaria – these are allergies which affect the skin; they include allergic skin rashes such as nettle rash and hives.
Hay fever – this condition causes reactions such as runny nose, sneezing, coughing and sore eyes during the summer months.
Venom allergies – these are reactions to stinging insects and snakes.
Adverse food reactions – people can be allergic to many different types of food.
Allergy to drugs – certain medications can cause a reaction in people; the usual reactions to drugs include a rash, sickness and stomach problems.
Anaphylaxis – a severe and sudden intense allergic reaction that affects the whole body.
Asthma – an allergic reaction that commonly affects the breathing.
Eye allergies – this can vary from very mild irritation to severe conjunctivitis.
If your doctor believes that you may have an allergy then steps will need to be taken to identify what is causing it, the allergen. The most common way of finding the allergen is to perform a skin prick test. The skin prick test is quick and relatively painless and the results are known immediately.
A small needle is used to gently prick your skin with the allergen; the test will usually be conducted on your forearm. You are determined to be allergic to the allergen if your skin becomes red, sore and itchy around the area the needle was inserted. It is also usual for the area to come up in a welt. If you have had no reaction to the allergen after a period of roughly 20 minutes then you aren’t allergic to that allergen.
If it is suspected that you have dermatitis – a form of eczema then you will normally be given a skin patch test, this test relies on taping patches with various allergens underneath aluminum discs. The discs are usually kept in place for a period of 48 hours and then assessed by a dermatologist for allergic changes.
In severe cases of allergy you might be required to have a challenge test to be performed in hospital. The suspected allergens are then introduced directly into the lungs or nose and the allergic reaction is then measured. If it is suspected that you might be allergic to food or foods then a double blind placebo test may be used. The food or foods that are thought to cause a reaction are given in a capsule under supervision, and then you wait to see if you develop a reaction to it. This type of test however is only done in extreme circumstances because despite it being the most reliable way it is also the most time consuming.